Food incidents

How to report, respond to and prevent an incident, as well as carrying out monitoring and planning work.
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What a food incident is

A food incident is where concerns about actual or suspected threats to the safety, quality or integrity of food and feed require intervention to protect consumers. 

Incidents fall into two categories:

  • contamination of food or animal feed in processing, distribution, retail and catering - resulting in action to remove the food from sale or recall it from the public
  • environmental pollution incidents such as fires, chemical/oil spills and radiation leaks, which may involve voluntary or enforced action

Report an incident

We lead on how the government responds to food incidents. We do this by monitoring food and feed safety patterns in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and provide guidance and workshops to industry.

Report an incident

Preventing an incident

You must ensure that the produce you supply meets safety requirements. Both larger and smaller businesses must take all possible precautions at every stage of the food or feed chain. 

Actions you can take include:

  • using trusted sources of raw materials and ingredients
  • utilising assurance schemes
  • utilising food safety management standards
  • implementing food safety management systems
  • asking for help from your local authority

We have provided a document to help you prevent and respond to food incidents.  

Food incident happening in your business

You are legally required to tell your local authority or port health authority and us if there is a food incident. The authorities will advise you of any action you might need to take.

The product should immediately be withdrawn or, if necessary, recalled if you think that it is unsafe. 

Our incident management plan 

The Incident Management Plan (IMP) shows you how we are meeting our responsibilities in response to non-routine food-related incidents. The IMP will be regularly updated and will be continually tested.

Protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack

The British Standards Institution has developed a user-friendly guide to help businesses if you don’t have access to specialist advice in this area. This guide is designed to help food businesses and others avoid and lessen threats to food and drink supply.

The ‘Publicly Available Specification (PAS 96) 2017 Guide to protecting and defending food and drink from deliberate attack’ describes a risk management methodology known as Threat Assessment Critical Control Points (TACCP). This guidance can be adapted by food businesses of all sizes and at all points in the food supply chain. 

The guide can help you to assess potential vulnerabilities to fraud, ideologically motivated individuals and other 'insider' threats. There is also advice on cyber threats.