Incidents Guidance for Businesses

Food Standards Scotland leads on the Government response to food incidents in Scotland. We provide advice on how to report, respond to and prevent an incident, as well as carrying out monitoring and planning work.

What is a food incident?

A food incident is where concerns about actual or suspected threats to the safety or quality of food require intervention to protect consumers. Incidents fall broadly into two categories:

  • contamination of food or animal feed in processing, distribution, retail and catering, resulting in action to withdraw the food from sale or recall it from the public
  • environmental pollution incidents such as fires, chemical/oil spills and radiation leaks, which may involve voluntary or statutory action (e.g. orders made under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985)

Report an incident here

Businesses are legally required to inform their local authority/port health authority and Food Standards Scotland if there is reason to believe that food or feed is not compliant with food or feed safety requirements. The authorities will advise you of any action you might need to take.

If businesses have reason to believe food is unsafe, it should immediately be withdrawn or, if necessary, recalled. If the products do not meet food standards requirements, such as labelling or quality issues, where there is no safety issue, then you might wish to ensure that products are withdrawn, rather than risk prosecution.

Preventing an incident

Preventing incidents is important for protecting consumers' interests, ensuring food standards and safety, and maintaining trust in the food chain.

More on preventing an incident

All businesses, irrespective of size, should be taking all reasonable precautions to ensure that the produce they supply meets safety requirements. While the precautions small businesses take may not be as extensive as those taken by a larger business, even small businesses, at all stages of the food or feed chain, must take reasonable precautions to ensure that their produce meets food or feed safety requirements.

Actions you can take may include the following.

  • Use trusted sources of raw materials and ingredients
  • Utilise assurance schemes
  • Utilise food safety management standards
  • Implement food safety management systems
  • Gain local authority help

To help food businesses and others avoid and lessen threats to food and drink supply, the British Standards Institution has developed a guide.


Related Publications/Resources