The Food Law Code of Practice requires local authorities to carry out risk-based sampling as part of the UK official controls. The sampling carried out by LAs is either enforcement sampling or surveillance sampling to demonstrate levels of compliance with EU and UK food law. The aim of a sampling strategy is to help ensure food is safe, compositionally correct, does not contain contaminants, only contains permitted additives, is correctly described, bears required markings and is truthfully labelled.
While guidance suggests that a risk based approach should be applied, there is little advice available on the appropriate method of risk assessment. To improve the consistency of approach across all the 434 UK Local Authorities there is a need for guidance on how best to devise a risk based food and feed sampling programme.
This project aims to review sampling policy and practice in the UK and selected overseas countries and will use the information gathered to produce a ‘best practice’ draft guidance document that can be developed for use by local authorities.
A literature review of UK and overseas guidance and practice in respect of risk based sampling will be undertaken. The review of overseas practices will be limited to countries covered by EU legislation and countries with similar food economies, such as US.
A qualitative survey of 20 public health authorities and local authorities of sufficient size to capture the range of practices will be conducted. Workshops with 10 to 20 authorities will also be held to gather further information to help develop the guidance.
Guidance that may impact on enforcing authority’s decisions, resources and food safety must be tested. Therefore, once the guidance has been developed, a moderately scaled pilot application of the guidance will be undertaken with 13 authorities before it is finalised. As part of the pilot authorities will be asked to develop a sampling plan using the guidance method and compare the plan with current practice. Subjective feedback will be sought on the validity of the results, practicality of the method and suggestions for amendments.
The findings will help meet FSA policy needs by supporting risk-based sampling by enforcing authorities. Risk based sampling should enable authorities to cost effectively maintain surveillance of the safety and compliance of food products.