Food chain analysis: summary of analysis and findings

Food chain analysis included both a high level analysis across risks from all food safety hazards to identify strategic priorities, and more detailed analysis of higher risk food chains to understand better the sources of risks and control options.

Analysis across all food safety risks

Analysis was carried out to assess relative risks across all food safety hazards, and assess the extent to which controls are aligned to risks. The analysis was used to:

  • Identify high risk areas to inform prioritisation for the next strategic plan. Strategic priorities identified from this analysis include: reducing foodborne disease with a particular focus on campylobacter in chicken and listeria; earlier detection of emerging risks through improved horizon scanning and intelligence gathering.
  • Identify points in the food chain where there is clear misalignment of official controls to risks. Areas of particular concern are high levels of official controls for dairy farms, abattoirs and cutting plants relative to the risks posed. The FSA is carrying out work to address these.
  • Identify data gaps. A key information gap is the level of microbial contamination of imports.
  • Direct the more detailed analysis towards the highest risk food chains.

Detailed food chain analysis

More detailed analysis was carried out of some high risk food chains to understand better the sources of risks and control options. To date, the ruminant and chicken food chains have been analysed. Key findings include:

  • Chicken food chain: campylobacter in chicken poses the greatest risk from foodborne pathogens and contamination is high throughout the food supply chain, indicating that existing controls are not effective in reducing this risk.
    Some improvement could be achieved through a combination of existing measures, such as good hygiene practice, but a more radical approach is required to achieve a step reduction in risk.
  • Ruminants food chain: findings from the analysis of the beef and lamb food chains were consistent with those from the Pennington enquiry. VTEC 0157 is a key concern and, although the incidence of illnesses in the UK is low in comparison to other pathogens, the impact on individuals affected can be severe.
    Risks from VTEC arise where there are multiple breakdowns in good hygiene practice across the food chain. Further reducing this risk could be achieved through controls that reduce contamination and spread at the primary production stage and ensure the application of good hygiene practice from farm to fork. The analysis identified a range of potential control options on farm and at slaughter (e.g. steaming carcass) that are not in general used in the UK. A review is required to establish feasibility and cost-benefit of these options for the UK. Areas for better alignment of official control activity to risk were also identified at slaughter and on farm.

Contact

If you have any comments, ideas or evidence that you would like to see included, please contact us at:
foodchainanalysis@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk