This investigation set out to see what risks might emerge from this perceived downturn in sampling. The aim of this study was to investigate how the balance has changed between routine sampling and surveillance conducted by UK Public Health Authorities (PHAs) and Local Authorities (LAs), to evaluate whether there is an increased possibility for incidents or emerging risks to go undetected at UK borders due to a decline in surveillance sampling.
PHAs are completing more samples of FNOAO due to the additional EC regulated official sampling requirements in 2010. As the expenses for the statutory sampling are cost recoverable from the importer, there are no funding issues. The volume of food samples analyses by inland LAs in the UK has fallen by about 33% since 2008/09 due to reductions in budgets and staffing levels, whilst also having to sustain the prescribed rates of premises inspections.
There are various options for improvement. The themes for these options are noted below, with those that the FSA could lead on noted as such:
- The FSA could provide advice on how to make better use of current food sampling resources through:
- Better co-ordination between national, regional and local bodies. The FSA may need to help further develop national co-ordination arrangements and advice on regional co-ordination arrangements
- More risk-based and intelligence-led sampling by the FSA and LAs
- Better sharing of results/data, including amendments to UKFSS by the FSA
- More efficient working practices by LAs
- Changing funding arrangements, with a range of options for increased funding, while ‘ring fencing’ food sampling funds, and defining expected levels of sampling to be conducted by LAs. The FSA could lead on this option.
- Increasing level and scope of national sampling programmes directed or conducted by national agencies (FSA and Public Health England (PHE)), with less onus placed on LAs to plan or conduct food sampling. The FSA would need to lead on this option, in collaboration with PHE.
- To increase the extent/use of food sampling, following official sampling methods, undertaken by businesses through, for example, third party certification schemes, with requirements for sharing all results with LAs, FSA and PHE. The FSA would need to lead on the development of this option and advising LAs on its implementation.
More details can be found here.