Food Standard Agency issues report stressing need to report incidents of food/environmental contamination...

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), well known for drawing attention to food safety, has issued its annual report of incidents.

A spokesperson for the agency commented: “The report is a call to industry, the public and Local Authorities to be vigilant in the reporting of incidents in order that the FSA can construct an accurate picture of food and environmental contamination in the UK.”

Incidents fall broadly into two categories, those involving the contamination of food and environmental pollution incidents (fires, spills and leaks). According to the FSA report, the major categories of incidents in 2006 were: environmental pollution (28%), natural chemical contamination (13%), microbiological contamination (11%) and physical contamination (10%).

In summer 2005, the FSA introduced an agency-wide database to enable more detailed analysis of incidents data.

Andrew Wadge, FSA chief scientist and director of food safety, said: “A better information base will help us take more appropriate and proportionate action and, over time, provide a valuable resource for everyone concerned with food safety.”

Contamination can occur throughout the supply chain, and sometimes foods have to be withdrawn or recalled if there is an incident that puts consumers at risk. “When it comes down to it retailers tend to err on the side of recalling,” commented Paul Howard, Sainsbury’s head of insurance and risk management.

He added: “The vast majority of incidents tend to be self enforced recalls. If there is something that has no potential for danger but is different to what was intended then it is withdrawn.” Missing or incorrect labeling is another trigger for recalls.

According to Howard, working upstream with suppliers and manufacturers is the best way of mitigating the chance of a costly recall.