Fera Science have recently commissioned research into public awareness of food safety issues and to understand some of the real threats to food safety worldwide and created new ISO/IEC 17043/2010 accredited specific target proficiency tests to support industry. The research examined public attitudes to food safety and the levels of awareness of the risks to public health. More than 2,000 people from across the UK were surveyed.
The survey found that most people were unaware of all but the most common and high-profile food safety threats. When respondents were asked to list the food safety threats they were aware of in the UK, 35% were unable to bring any to mind. The most frequently recalled risk was salmonella in eggs or chicken, mentioned by 17% of respondents. Next came food handling storage and hygiene, mentioned by 12% of respondents, followed by E. coli (10%), horsemeat fraud, deliberate tampering of food and genetically modified food (all 6%). Awareness generally was greater among people in the 55 to 64 and 65+ age categories.
When respondents were prompted with a list of threats to food safety, more than 80% said they had heard of E. coli, and 52% were aware of food mislabelling and the impact of pesticides. Other threats that registered high levels of prompted recognition were campylobacter (31%), antimicrobial resistance (20%) and mycotoxins (16%).
Respondents were asked specifically about their concerns in relation to food safety following Brexit. They were asked what they would most want check if a significantly cheaper product was available in the supermarket after Brexit. More than half (57%) said they would want to check the country of origin, and 51% would want to check whether the item was previously banned for import into the EU.
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Overall, the survey found that the range of specific concerns and the threats that were uppermost in people’s minds were limited to incidents that had received extensive media coverage. And with recent headlines being littered with recalls of products from raw milk cheese in Canada for E.coli & Listeria to several brands of sausage in Montreal contaminated with E.coli, ensuring your quality control measures are up to standard is vital in order to produce high quality products.
Proficiency testing provider Fapas, part of Fera – has established a raft of new microbiology proficiency tests to meet these recent industry challenges faced with food pathogens found in key food stuffs like soft cheese, meat and chicken. Proficiency testing is a vital tool in mitigating business risks, such as; product failure, non-compliance, brand reputation and legal requirements. It gives you the confidence in your products, supply chain, analytical methods and people.
The process involves samples of food stuffs being sent to registered labs so that they can perform their analysis. The labs will then send their results to Fapas, which will analyse the data and generate reports to provide labs with an in-depth evaluation of how well they have performed. With this insight, labs can investigate the success of the methods they have employed and carry out necessary adjustments.
Emma Hutton, Senior Proficiency Analyst at Fera, said: “We have listened to industry and customers alike to create these new proficiency tests. They will help laboratories that perform well being able to demonstrate their proficiency to accreditation bodies and producers, generating trust in their services. The use of proficiency tests, in the context of the assessment of laboratories to the accreditation according to EN ISO/ IEC 17025:2005, is therefore regarded as a standard that demonstrates the quality of your test and calibration results and ultimately your products”.