This page describes our role in sampling food to ensure what we eat is safe and wholesome.
In general terms food sampling is a scientific method used to confirm the safety and wholesomeness of food.
As such it is a useful support tool for officers inspecting food businesses and to food law enforcement generally.
Reigate & Banstead Borough Council's 'sampling policy' is explained below.
Businesses can also download a copy of the sampling policy (PDF document [16.3Kb]) to print off.
Below, we outline the overall approach taken by the Council's Environmental Health Services and the arrangements for processing samples taken.
In addition to the Food Sampling Policy, a sampling programme is prepared each year outlining sampling activity to be undertaken.
Food sampling: How it works
Samples can be submitted for two different types of test: -
- microbiological examination to determine both the general level of microbes and the presence of specific pathogens (e.g. Salmonella, E.coli O157)
- analysis for non-microbiological contamination (e.g. glass in a manufactured lasagne).
In addition to sampling food, other techniques are available that assist in determining food safety, e.g. swab testing of equipment and work surfaces.
The council will focus food sampling activity on:
- the investigation of food contamination and food poisoning incidents
- complaints concerning the sale or supply of contaminated foodstuffs
- national and European (EU) co-ordinated sampling programmes
- locally manufactured products; local events and initiatives
- local high risk premises (EU approved or licensed food producers)
- food businesses for which it acts as the 'Home Authority.'
However, there has to be sufficient flexibility to allow for emergency responses or where other particular issues of concern arise.
Depending on the type of test required a sample it is sent to either a 'public analyst' or a 'food examiner' - qualified specialists in their field.
The Council currently uses the laboratories of Hampshire Scientific Service and the Health Protection Agency (HPA) respectively.
The laboratory will then provide a certificate upon completion of the sample testing, and, depending on those results may be called upon to provide further help should enforcement or prosecution action be necessary.
The annual sampling programme is prepared in consultation with these laboratory services.
Keeping businesses informed
Normal practice is to advise any business of the sampling results. In the event of an unsatisfactory laboratory result the business will be given relevant advice and a second sample will be taken after an appropriate interval.
In situations where enforcement is considered the Council will be guided by its Food Enforcement Policy, which is available on request.
If you would like a copy of the Policy, get in touch with the Council using the contact details below.
Use of resources
Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are trained in sampling techniques, and within Surrey greater consistency and efficiency is achieved by linking the sampling activity of the various Councils through a liaison group.
The majority of sampling work falls within the routine food safety activity of EHOs but where a particular need arises, such as a food poisoning outbreak, resources would need to be redeployed temporarily.
Limited funding is provided by central government for microbiological sampling via the HPA whereas the Council pays for each sample submitted to the Public Analyst.
If you would like to learn more about the food sampling activity of the Council or any other food safety matter please contact our Food Safety Team using the details below.
A range of free literature on various food safety topics is also available on request.
Telephone: 01737 276417
Food Safety Team
Environmental Health Department
Reigate and Banstead Borough Council
Last updated : 14/05/2009