81 percent of foods compliant with standards, FSA survey reveals

Posted: 20 February 2024 | | No comments yet

The FSA had published its latest Retail Surveillance Survey, data that helps to monitor emerging food safety risks in the UK


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the results of its Retail Surveillance Survey, research carried out specifically targeted where the Agency understands there is potential risk, as well as where sampling is needed to support the regulator in informing policy and science.  

The survey itself was carried out in October 2022. To gather data, the Agency sampled products from a typical basket of food as well as other products purchased from national supermarkets as well as smaller independent retailers. The purchases were made both in store and online.

The FSA tested the food samples for undeclared allergens, contaminants, adulteration, inaccurate composition or incorrect labelling.  

Survey results found that overall 81 percent of foods tested did in fact meet regulatory requirements and were compliant with the legal standards they were tested against.

Meanwhile, 96 percent of items tested from larger food businesses met regulatory requirements and were compliant with the legal standards they were tested against. Going further, the data showed that food authenticity rates for foods tested were 97 percent.

Significantly, the regulator has revealed that, across the UK, there were no geographical hotspots for non-compliance.

“While most food tested as part of this targeted sampling programme was safe and authentic, the project has highlighted some issues, including undeclared allergens in some African spices and prepacked food for direct sale (PPDS). These results are also not representative of food safety in the UK as the sampling programme targeted food products where we know there is risk, or where we need more information,” explained the regulator.

Of the 267 products tested, the survey showed that just 16 percent of foods tested for allergens contained undeclared allergens. Meanwhile 27 percent of African spices tested were found to contain undeclared peanut protein. In addition, 17 out of 47 prepacked foods for direct sale (PPDS) tested had allergens present without the correct labelling.

However, the FSA has highlighted that the survey does not provide evidence of the overall public health risk of allergens in food, which currently “remains unchanged”.

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Speaking on the findings, Professor Rick Mumford, Deputy Chief Scientific Advisor & Deputy Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the FSA shared:  “This survey is designed to help Local Authorities (LAs) to target their food safety inspections so that they can use their resources more effectively, to better protect consumers.

“Recent changes to the Food Law Code of Practice (Opens in a new window)in England and Northern Ireland help LAs to take a more risk-based, intelligence-driven approach to inspection, focusing their time and resources on food businesses that pose a greater risk to consumers.”

Mumford went on to share that the regulator has allocated some funding for local authorities in England and Norther Ireland to sample pre-packaged for direct sale foods and spice blends for allergens.

“We will continue to carry out targeted surveillance programmes to identify and find emerging risks within the UK food system to help ensure the safety of consumers,” continued Mumford.