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Food sampling practice in the United Kingdom

Wong, R.Y.P. and Ferguson, N.S. and Clark, C.F. (2004) Food sampling practice in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Environmental Health Research, 14 (3). pp. 201-213. ISSN 0960-3123

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Abstract

As an integral part of the UK food surveillance scheme, routine food sampling is undertaken by officers at local councils. One of the main purposes of the food sampling programme is to detect food contaminants before they are sold to the public. This paper investigated the current UK food sampling activity undertaken by the local Environmental Health Departments and examined the effectiveness of the food programme. A national survey was undertaken by means of a questionnaire sent to 439 UK local authorities and a response rate of 39.2% (172 LAs) was achieved. Thirty-nine per cent of replies indicated that ensuring food safety and hygiene was the most important aim of sampling. Less than half of the returns suggested that their food programmes contributed to the prevention of foodborne illness. However, over three-quarters agreed that the current food sampling system could be improved upon. This study concluded that current UK food sampling is marginalized by financial constraints. In order to design an effective routine food programme, it should be based on an overall co-ordinated approach from local to European levels. Future work towards a statistically validated approach to the design will improve the effectiveness of food sampling programme.