Food incidents

A food incident occurs when there are concerns about threats to the safety or quality of food and/or feed.

A food incident occurs when there are concerns about the safety or quality of food and/or feed. During an incident, our Scottish Food Crime and Incidents unit (SFCIU) will intervene where necessary 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, or
  • 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).

Public Sector Incident Protocol (PSIP)

The PSIP sets out national arrangements for responding swiftly and effectively to food incidents that require coordinated action across the public sector.

Requirements of Food Business Operators

Food business operators (FBOs) have a legal obligation under Regulation 178/2002/EC to recall or withdraw food from the market if it does not meet food safety requirements. To facilitate this, they must be able to identify their suppliers and food business customers.

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

If FBOs have reason to believe food is unsafe, it should immediately be withdrawn or, if necessary, recalled. They must notify the competent authorities when food which does not meet food safety requirements is withdrawn or recalled from the market. If the products do not meet food standards requirements, such as labelling or quality issues, where there is no safety issue, then they might wish to ensure that products are withdrawn, rather than risk prosecution.

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

As part of our incident prevention strategy, we monitor food and feed safety patterns in Scotland and provides guidance and workshops to industry. We work closely with external partners such as local authorities, Health Protection Scotland (HPS), Food Standards Agency (FSA) and other government departments to ensure effective management of food incidents.


Report a food incident - Local Authorities and Businesses

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Food Incidents

A food incident is where concerns about actual or suspected threats to the safety or quality of food requires intervention to protect consumers.