Foodborne Illness

A key priority for Food Standards Scotland is to protect consumers in Scotland from the risks of foodborne illness.

Our approach

How FSS aims to protect consumers is laid out in Strategy to Reduce Foodborne Illness in Scotland . Through this strategy, we aim to identify the points in the food chain where contamination can occur and develop interventions which are likely to have the greatest potential for reducing the risks to human health.

Regulations exist to ensure food businesses take appropriate steps to control food safety risks before products are placed on the market. To support food safety management, we apply a ‘farm-to-fork’ approach; to try to ensure contamination is minimised as much as possible during the production and processing of food before it reaches the kitchen. We also promote good food hygiene practices through the development of guidance for Scottish food businesses and caterers; and we also provide consumer guidance. All of our work is supported by research to ensure all of our strategies and interventions are effectively targeted and evidence based.

Main causes of foodborne illness in Scotland

Foodborne illness is most frequently caused by the consumption of food which has become contaminated with harmful microbiological agents, or pathogens, including bacteria and viruses. In Scotland, it is estimated there are 43,000 cases of foodborne illness annually, with 5,800 GP presentations and 500 hospital admissions. FSS works closely with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Scottish partners such as Health Protection Scotland (HPS) to target the bacterial and viral pathogens which cause the highest number of cases of foodborne illness.

HPS is responsible for undertaking surveillance of infectious intestinal disease (IID) caused by the key pathogens of interest. This surveillance records the total number of cases of IID which have been acquired through the food chain and other sources such as contaminated water or the environment.  Current and historical figures for each pathogen can be accessed through the HPS website.

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