1. Introduction

Coventry City Council is required to prepare and publish a food sampling policy and make it available to businesses and consumers in accordance with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Law Code of Practice and Food Law Practice Guidance, and to meet the standard laid down in the FSA Framework Agreement on Official Feed and Food Controls.

This policy sets out this authority’s general approach to food sampling and its approach to specific situations.

2. General approach

Food sampling and subsequent analysis and examination performs an essential function, providing intelligence and evidence on the safety and authenticity of food on the UK market. By providing this information it forms a key part of official controls enabling appropriate action to be taken to protect the consumer.

Local Authorities have a duty to ensure food meets legally prescribed standards and sampling is a means of monitoring compliance. Coventry City Council is required to prepare a sampling programme using a targeted and risk-based approach that details the authority’s intended food sampling priorities.

The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 and the Food Safety Act 1990 allow samples to be procured either by ‘purchasing’ or ‘taking’. Due regard will be given to the requirements of the Food Law Code of Practice and Practice Guidance when the purchasing of samples is being considered.

Sampling activities will normally be carried out in accordance with the annual work plan and will be determined by the level of resources available.  

Sampling protocols are devised for individual surveys in collaboration with the Public Analyst and Food Examiner. Allowances will however, be made for unplanned emergencies, areas of emerging risk and in the event of a food poisoning outbreak or food alert. These will be determined in accordance with public health risk.  

3. Purpose of Food Sampling

Routine sampling

Routine sampling may take place to monitor the safety of foods manufactured, distributed and retailed in Coventry. All routine samples may be purchased anonymously or taken with the consent of the owners of the food by an authorised Officer.  These informal food samples will be analysed or examined by the appointed Public Analyst or Food Examiner respectively.

Informal sampling

The majority of samples taken for microbiological purposes will be informal, and form part of the monitoring/surveillance programme.  Samples of food that are the subject of a consumer complaint and are brought to the Department are also classed as informal, as are food samples submitted for expert opinion, pest identification, and those taken as evidence in their own right e.g. use by dates.

Formal samples

Formal samples will be purchased or taken in accordance with the FSA’s Code of Practice and Practice Guidance, by suitably trained, qualified and experienced authorised Officers.  They will be examined or analysed by the appointed Food Examiner or Public Analyst.  Formal samples will be taken where enforcement action may result if an adverse report is received following examination or analysis.

Process monitoring

Samples may be taken from manufacturers of foods, during the manufacturing process, for the purpose of ensuring the safety of the end product and for assessing the effectiveness of the critical controls in the process. 

Primary Authority

In support of the Government’s Primary Authority scheme, Coventry City Council will notify the Primary Authority and if required the home or originating authority of any adverse results following sampling carried out.

Routine inspections

Sampling may form part of a routine inspection of a food business.  It may take place if, during the inspection, the authorised Officer identifies a particular problem that needs further investigation or for obtaining evidence to support an investigation. It may also take place during an inspection for process monitoring purposes.

Food related complaints

On receipt of a food complaint, the food may be submitted for analysis, examination, or for expert identification, if this is deemed necessary for the suitable investigation of the complaint.

Food borne disease investigations

Where a particular premises or food produced in Coventry is implicated in a case or cases of food borne disease, food samples may be taken and submitted for examination for the purposes of identifying any likely source of infection and controlling any risk to public health.  These samples are likely to be taken formally.  In the event of an outbreak of food-borne disease, relevant samples will be identified in consultation with the UK Health Security Agency.

Special investigations

Food samples may be taken and submitted as part of a special investigation, e.g. in response to a food hazard warning, or to other intelligence received about potential food safety issues. This may form part of a ‘food incident’ involving liaison with the FSA.

Coordinated sampling programmes

Coventry City Council recognises the merit in participation in co-ordinated sampling programmes which will enable effective use of the Council’s resources.  The Council therefore may participate as appropriate in national, regional and locally co-ordinated programmes. 

4. Food Sampling Plan

Coventry City Council will prepare an annual sampling programme having regard to 2 and 3 above. The sampling plan will be detailed in the team’s annual service plan.

The programme may therefore consist of the following components, as determined by public health risk and officer resource:

  • Product specific sampling.
  • UK Co-ordinated Food Liaison Group studies.  
  • Monitoring/surveillance sampling of high-risk foods.
  • Sampling as a result of a food complaint or allegation of food poisoning.
  • Formal sampling as a result of a food premises inspection or detention/seizure of foodstuffs.
  • From premises where food sample results were previously unsatisfactory.
  • From premises where intelligence identifies potential problems.

5. Sampling Procedure

Food samples are taken in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice, Practice Guidance, and any other relevant legislation, guidance or protocols.

6. Submission of samples for examination

Samples will be examined by the following laboratories:

Food and Water Laboratory

UK Health Security Agency
FW&E Microbiology Service Laboratory, London   
UKHSA Colindale
61 Colindale Avenue

Public Analyst

Lancashire County Scientific Services
Pedders Way
Riversway Docklands

UKAS No. 0625, Official Food Control Laboratory

7. Follow-up Action

When the results of a laboratory examination of the sample(s) are received, Officers will decide the appropriate follow-up action with due regard to any expert advice from the Food Examiner or Public Analyst. Reference will also be made to the Council’s enforcement policy. Where appropriate liaison with the Primary/Home/Originating Authority will be undertaken.

Satisfactory results

Within 10 working days of receiving a satisfactory result, the Officer will notify the food business operator (FBO) of the result and interpretation in writing, unless the sample had been taken unannounced when no notification will be sent.

Borderline results

This category indicates the sample was at the level of borderline acceptable quality. Within 10 working days of receipt the Officer will notify the FBO / manager of the food business of the results and interpretation in writing. Advice on improvements will be given. 

Unsatisfactory results

This category indicates that the food sample did not meet the acceptable standards. At the earliest opportunity and no later than 10 working days following receipt of the results, the Officer will notify the FBO / manager of the food business of the results and interpretation in writing unless resampling is to be undertaken. In this instance, the results will be discussed as below. Advice on improvements will be given.

Resampling may be considered where:

  • The premises sampled from has a poor record of compliance.
  • In the view of the Food Examiner, the result obtained raises concerns about hygienic practices followed.
  • Other similar batches within the same consignment need investigation to gain statistical information about the rest of the consignment.
  • There is a serious risk to public health.

Where resampling is to be undertaken the business will be visited by an Officer and the FBO/manager informed of the result and possible causes(s), means of improvement and also that a resample will be taken. Should a satisfactory or borderline result be obtained on resampling the FBO/manager will be notified as above.

Should a further unsatisfactory result be obtained, an assessment will be made to determine further action which may result in formal action. In those cases where an arrangement exists for Primary, Home and Originating Authority referrals, the appropriate authorities will be notified.

All non-compliances will be dealt with proportionately, consistently and in accordance with our enforcement policy and the Food Law Code of Practice.

Food and Safety team

Open 9am–5pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays)

Address: PO Box 15
Council House
Earl Street

Telephone: 08085 834333