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Food sampling policy

We are required to undertake routine sampling in accordance with current approved codes of practice, regulations and guidance.

Sampling is an important and integral tool in food law enforcement for the following reasons:

  • Protecting public health
  • Detecting and deterring fraudulent activities
  • Verifying that official control checks are effective
  • Giving customers sufficient information to make informed choices
  • Ensuring that food standards are maintained
  • Informing the enforcement approach
  • Providing product quality advice to the producer
  • Promoting fair trade and deterring bad practice

Sometimes sampling is the only way of fulfilling these objectives. Often it is a support to other interventions by authorised officers.

Sampling has particular benefits in supporting work on food complaints, food safety and standards inspections (including process monitoring), the Home Authority Principle and surveys. There is also a role in the Council’s involvement in special investigations and local initiatives.

Organisation of sampling

Food law enforcement, and sampling, is a function carried out by Environmental Services, in particular the Food and Business Regulation section within Environmental Health. The service is managed by the Council’s Lead Officer for food safety.

All sampling will be undertaken in accordance with relevant legislation and codes of practice, as well as guidance and procedures issued under this policy.

Sampling programme and prioritisation of sampling

A Sampling Programme will be produced every year. The programme will be discussed with the council’s Public Analyst and will be informed by guidance from Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee (SFELC).

We view sampling as an important component of all enforcement work but particular benefits are linked to complaints.

When prioritising sampling we will prioritise sampling in three categories.

Priority 1 - Samples required to meet statutory obligations

  • Complaint samples
  • Investigation of food related outbreaks and incidents

Priority 2 - Samples required for effective food safety enforcement

  • Microbiological samples from high risk (Category A and B) food hygiene premises
  • Microbiological samples of high risk foods from other food hygiene premises
  • Chemical samples from producers, packers or importers sending food outwith South Lanarkshire Council
  • Sampling of foods from premises highlighted by national sample collation
  • Imported food sampling by inland authorities

Priority 3 - Samples which give added value or which support local initiatives and projects

  • Local Authority surveys
  • Sampling to support local initiatives
  • Sampling to support other Local Authority services
  • Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee coordinated surveys
  • Food Liaison Group surveys

We aim to prioritise samples falling into Priority 1 and Priority 2 classifications. Resources will be devoted to Priority 3 samples whenever possible.

Resourcing sampling

Food sampling is carried out by officers in Environmental Services.  As well as staff resources we will ensure adequate resources are committed for

  • sample collection
  • sampling equipment
  • transport of samples
  • analysis or examination of samples

We have appointed Edinburgh City Council to provide Public Analyst and Food Examiner services.

In ensuring the most effective use of sampling resources the council will seek to follow any advice from Food Standards Scotland and other agencies.

We believe that local authorities working together can pool resources and gain added value from their sampling work. We have recently begun participating in the Food Surveillance System UK (UKFSS) which is a Food Standards Scotland funded sample and result collation mechanism. A report of data from UKFSS, produced by Food Standards Scotland annually, analyses data from that years sampling, and contains recommendations for action by Local Authorities for the following year.  Such information will be used to target sampling activity and guide councils on getting best value from sampling resources.

Sampling and enforcement

Food samples are an enforcement tool and results are considered in terms of our Food Safety Enforcement policy as well as our procedure for dealing with the results of food samples.

Review

This sampling policy, and any programme, guidance, or procedure issued will be reviewed whenever there are substantial changes to the activities to which it relates and not later than 2 months from the anniversary of its inception

If it is established that the sampling policy and programme are not being adhered to, the appropriate staff will be retrained and/or the policy/programme reviewed to more accurately reflect the activities being carried out.