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14% year on year increase in food incidents

The Food Standards Agency saw an increase in the number of food incidents it investigated last year. These included reports of contaminated or illegal food entering the food chain, with some potentially harmful to the public.

According to the Annual Report of Incidents 2011 published today, 1,714 food incidents were investigated by the FSA last year, compared to 1,505 in 2010. This is a further increase on the 1,208 incidents reported in 2009.

No single reason has been identified for the increasing number. The FSA believes a combination of factors is behind the rise, but the most likely is improved monitoring and reporting.

The Annual Report of Incidents 2011 shows increases across a number of categories of food incident. For example, the increase in reports of microbiological contamination, which has been seen since 2006, has continued. There were 281 such incidents in 2011, compared to 271 in 2010, and 147 going back to 2006.

Extra testing of paan leaves last year, following concerns about salmonella contamination, has undoubtedly contributed to this year with 79 incidents of contaminated paan leaves reported to the FSA in 2011. The November 2011 news story about paan leaves can be found at the link below.

Pesticide incidents have also increased. More testing of okra at border inspection posts, following a number of alerts, was behind a rise in incidents involving the use of pesticides illegal in the UK and European Union, with 102 in 2011 compared to 55 in 2010.

The Annual Report of Incidents 2011 contains background on how incidents are classified and investigated. There are also case studies of some of the high profile incidents investigated by the FSA last year, including details of what actions were taken and some of the lessons learned.

Tim Smith, Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency, said: ‘Keeping food safe is the FSA priority and investigating food incidents is a key part of that. Our annual report gives a real insight into the vital role we play in protecting the food chain from a wide range of risks.

‘The UK has some of the most robust food safety safeguards in the world. When such incidents do occur the food industry, the FSA, other government agencies, and enforcement officers locally, work quickly to isolate any risks and remove affected products from our shelves. I hope that this report gives consumers confidence that our systems are working and working well.’

It is clear that food specifications, supply chain risk management and robust supplier management systems will continue to increase in significance for food businesses.

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