The Food Standards Agency is the lead body for the Government response to incidents involving the food chain. As part of the Agency's work to protect consumers' interests and maintain food standards and safety, it provides advice on how to report, respond to and prevent an incident, as well as carrying out monitoring and planning work.
The Agency is also involved in the cross-departmental Government response to major incidents that require advice on food-related issues. In 2009, the Agency investigated 1,208 incidents and, where necessary, took action to inform consumers and gave advice to ensure that standards were maintained.
The Agency uses the following definition of an incident: 'Any event where, based on the information available, there are concerns about actual or suspected threats to the safety or quality of food that could require intervention to protect consumers’ interests.'
Incidents fall broadly into two categories:
- Incidents involving contamination of food or animal feed in processing, distribution, retail and catering. These incidents may result in action to withdraw the food from sale and, in certain circumstances, to recall it, alerting the public not to consume potentially contaminated food.
- Environmental pollution incidents such as fires, chemical/oil spills and radiation leaks, which may involve voluntary or statutory action (e.g. orders made under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985).
If there is a problem with a food product that means it should not be sold, then it might be 'withdrawn' (taken off the shelves) or 'recalled' (when customers are asked to return the product). The FSA issues information about product withdrawals and recalls to let consumers and local authorities know about problems associated with food. In some cases, a ‘Food Alert for Action’ is issued. This alert provides local authorities with details of specific action to be taken on behalf of consumers.
You can get FSA alerts about product recall and withdrawals either by email, RSS feed or SMS text. Read about how to subscribe, see the latest withdrawals and recalls and an archive.
In March 2007, the Agency introduced the allergy alert notice system for allergy incidents that do not need enforcement action. These alerts give consumers the information they need directly by email or SMS text message.
You can get FSA alerts either by email, RSS feed or SMS text. Read about allergy alerts, how to subscribe, see the latest alerts and an archive of previous ones.