Risk Analysis

Information about the risk analysis process in the UK from 1 January 2021

Keeping food and feed safe 

From 1 January 2021, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) will be responsible for many of the food and feed safety functions that are undertaken by the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority for EU countries.

Food and feed safety rules will not change on 1 January 2021, as existing European legislation will become UK law after the transition period. If the rules need to change after that, should we need to act to protect consumers in Scotland for example, we’ll provide independent advice and recommendations for appropriate controls based on a robust risk analysis process, working collaboratively with the Food Standards Agency across the UK.

The risk analysis process uses science and evidence to provide advice to government, business and consumers on food safety risks. It is the process of estimating risks to human health, finding ways to control these risks, and communicating both risks and controls to the people who need to know.

As well as food safety, it will also take into account other factors such as consumers’ wider food interests, animal welfare, environmental and economic impacts.

What is risk analysis? 

Risk analysis is a structured approach to the identification and management of public health hazards, where we assess the risk of hazards in our food and feed. We use this process to look at the risks from microbiological hazards (such as E. coli or salmonella), chemical hazards (such as heavy metals or chemical washes), physical hazards and allergens. The same process is also used to authorise new products that business want to place on the market, such as new types of flavourings, enzymes or additives in feed or food. It has three elements:

  1. risk assessment
  2. risk management, and
  3. risk communication.

Risk assessment

This involves using a scientific approach to identify hazards and estimate the potential risk to human and/or animal health. This includes evaluating the likely exposure to risks from food and other relevant sources. It is made up of two parts where we assess the severity of the risk (for example what kind of illness it may cause) combined with the likelihood it would make you ill (for example looking at how much contamination there is, who might be eating the product etc). These two components are combined into a risk characterisation, which also lists any uncertainties (e.g. we might not know how commonly eaten a new type of food is).

Risk management

The consideration of potential measures to either prevent or control the risk. It takes into account the risk assessment and other factors related to consumers’ wider interests in relation to food to identify an appropriate response.

FSS risk managers, working collaboratively with the FSA on UK-wide issues, consider which approaches could be implemented to manage and control the risk. They will consult with interested parties and take into account any factors relevant for the protection of consumers’ health and their wider interests in relation to food.

On more significant issues, our Board will be responsible for agreeing risk management recommendations in Scotland and providing advice to Scottish Ministers and others. The Board will also maintain oversight of how the risk analysis process is working in Scotland, to ensure it remains robust, transparent and based on the latest scientific evidence.

Risk communication

is the exchange of information and opinions throughout the risk analysis process between risk assessors, risk managers, consumers, industry, the academic community and other interested parties.

It includes understanding the concerns of consumers and other stakeholders, the publication of risk assessment findings and other supporting evidence, and the distribution of final advice.

Enhancing our risk analysis 

As part of the joint FSS/FSA risk analysis process, we will continue to follow international best practice when considering food and feed safety risks. We’ve adapted and strengthened our approaches, for example in:

  • ensuring a clear separation between risk assessment and risk management functions,
  • an expanded role for the UK’s independent Scientific Advisory Committees which have been strengthened by recruiting new experts and establishing three new joint expert groups, and
  • a new process coordinated across GB for evaluating applications for regulated products such as food and feed additives, enzymes, flavourings, genetically modified (GM) food and feed, and novel foods.

When we use risk analysis

Both FSS and the FSA will use risk analysis to assess the risk associated with food and feed, including chemical, microbiological, radiological and allergen risks and provide evidence-based advice and recommendations to others including ministers, consumers and enforcement officers.

From 1 January 2021, we will also receive applications for a range of regulated products and processes and will assess these using our improved risk analysis as we make recommendations to ministers for approvals or authorisations.

All regulated products with authorisation in force before 1 January 2021 will continue to remain valid in the UK.

Last updated 9 December

More on this topic

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Regulated products and processes

Outline of the authorisation process from 1 January 2021

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EU Exit

Requirements for businesses now that the transition period has ended.