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Food sampling

Why we take food samples?

The Food Law Code of Practice (Scotland) issued by Food Standards Scotland (FSS) states that effective routine sampling is an essential element in delivering a well-balanced food enforcement service and should therefore feature in the enforcement activity of all Food Authorities

Our food sampling program aims to:

  • Protect public health
  • Detect and deter fraudulent activities
  • Verify that official control checks are effective
  • Give customers sufficient information to make informed choices
  • Ensure that food standards are being maintained
  • Inform our enforcement approach when things go wrong
  • Provide product quality advice to the producer
  • Promote fair trade and deterring bad practice

What we are looking for?

Food samples are taken for the purpose of microbiological examination, e.g. looking for the presence of food poisoning organisms and/or the presence and level of hygiene indicators or chemical analysis, e.g. to confirm compliance with product-specific legal standards or the presence of contaminants in food.

How do we do it?

A variety of methods are used dependent on the circumstances. The first consideration is whether the sample will be taken formally e.g. in accordance with the regulations including the use of a witness or informally, e.g. mystery shopper, unannounced where the food business operator may be unaware that a sample has been taken.

In any case where legal action is to be considered in the event of a failed sample, samples are always taken formally.

In South Ayrshire, the majority of samples are taken informally in the first instance unless we have reason to believe an offence is being intentionally committed e.g. deliberate substitution of a product or adulteration e.g. adding water to spirit drinks.

All samples are submitted to our appointed Public Analyst at Glasgow Scientific Services, Everard Drive, Springburn, Glasgow.

Annual Sampling Plan

Each year, a sampling plan is prepared having considered information from various sources including the following:

  • Emerging issues both national and international
  • Local Authority Annual Food Sampling Report
  • West of Scotland Food Liaison Group
  • Follow-up to previous local surveys
  • Locally identified issues

The sampling programme will include the following elements:

  • Local surveys
  • Inspection-linked samples
  • Regional/National Surveys
  • Food complaints
  • Imported food

What we do when things go wrong

In the event of an unsatisfactory result, the owner of the food will be notified and a follow-up investigation will be carried out. This may involve formal samples being taken followed-up by legal action where necessary.

Where the food originates outwith South Ayrshire, the appropriate enforcement authority where the food originates will be notified to allow them to investigate the circumstances of the failed sample.

Where any result presents a possible risk to health, immediate action will be taken to deal with the risk presented. This may include liaison with the Food Standards Agency, Consultant in Public Health Medicine and any other agency considered appropriate.

In the event of enforcement action being considered, such action will be in accordance with our Food Safety Enforcement Policy.