Food surveillance system

The food surveillance programmes undertaken by FSS involve gathering data about the safety, compositional standards and authenticity of food & feed in Scotland.

FSS defines food surveillance as:

"the on-going systematic collection, collation, analysis and interpretation of accurate information about a defined food or feed with respect to food safety or food standards, closely integrated with timely dissemination of that information to those responsible for control and prevention measures."

The analysis and interpretation of data provides the intelligence which is needed to inform risk assessment, policy development and the targeting of enforcement activity, and therefore enables FSS to deliver its public health and consumer protection obligations.

Prior to its inception in April 2015, a programme of work was developed by Food Standards Agency in Scotland (FSAS) to address recommendations made by the Scottish Government’s expert advisory review of the lessons to be learned from the horsemeat incident, led by Professor Jim Scudamore, which was published in 2013.  FSS have developed a surveillance strategy  based upon the Scudamore report, with the aim of providing assurance around the food chain in Scotland. 

In addition to Scotland-wide food sampling programmes, FSS commission research to develop new methods of ensuring food is authentic and work closely with related government agencies including FSA and Defra.  FSS are key stakeholders of the virtual Food Authenticity Network  and participate in knowledge transfer initiatives to ensure Scotland, and the UK, have access to a resilient network of laboratories providing fit for purpose testing to check for food authenticity so consumers can have confidence in the food they buy.

Food Sampling

Food sampling by Local Authorities currently provides the principal surveillance mechanism for assessing the safety and authenticity of foods placed on the market, and generates valuable evidence to support risk assessment and the targeting of further surveillance and enforcement activities. In addition to sampling, valuable intelligence leads for surveillance are also generated through enforcement activity and incident investigation. The Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) has been working with Local Authorities through the Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee’s (SFELC’s) National Food Crime Advisory Unit to promote the reporting of suspected criminal activity and the sharing of intelligence. SFCIU is also developing improved systems for managing incidents and the recording, analysis and dissemination of intelligence generated by FSS and key partners, which will support the targeting of investigations and enforcement approaches. The launch, in 2016, of the Scottish Food Crime Hotline has provided an additional route for channelling whistleblowing and tip-offs into our intelligence systems.

UK Food Surveillance System

The UK Food Surveillance System (UKFSS) is a national database for the central storage of analytical results from food and feed samples taken by Local Authorities and tested by Public Analyst laboratories in Scotland. The database can be accessed by FSS, FSA, enforcement authorities and laboratories to search for anonymised local, regional, and national datasets, and identify trends and areas of non-compliance that can help develop sampling plans.

The Sampling and Surveillance working group (SSWG) set up by SFELC analyses the dataset to identify issues in Scotland relating to food safety, labelling and composition. The working group publishes an annual report, which highlights how the data has been used to inform measures currently in place for food monitoring across Scotland. Effective sampling plans are important components of each local authority’s food safety enforcement toolkit and the enforcement community uses the UKFSS data to inform future sampling plans and surveillance activities, whilst ensuring sampling plans mirror the profile of their premises and support authorised officers during their routine food safety and food standards inspections.

More on this topic

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Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee

The Scottish Food Enforcement Liaison Committee (SFELC) co-ordinates food law enforcement, sampling and surveillance activities of Scottish local authorities.

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Food Crime and Investigation

Food crime can involve selling food or drink that has been tampered with, or using cheaper ingredients than the ones listed on the label.

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