Targeted Surveillance Programme for Microbiological Food Safety

Closed 31 Oct 2017

Opened 4 Sep 2017

Results expected 31 Jan 2018

Feedback expected 31 Jan 2018


Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have in place a Strategy to 2021 that sets out a vision for a food and drink environment in Scotland that benefits, protects and is trusted by consumers. Ensuring the safety of the Scottish food chain is key to delivering this vision. Outcome 1 (Food is Safe) of the FSS strategic plan describes the importance of effective food surveillance systems in enabling the identification of risks to food and feed. This surveillance plays a key role in generating intelligence and insight to inform interventions for preventing foodborne illness in Scotland. In accordance with this, FSS has recently developed a Food Surveillance Strategy.  As part of our Food Surveillance Strategy, FSS is developing a Targeted Surveillance Programme to examine the microbiological safety of commodities known to be associated with foodborne illness. 

The aim of this targeted sampling programme is to generate statistically valid data on the microbiological risk of key commodities in Scotland. This data will be used to:

  • Develop an overview of the microbiological safety of these commodities;
  • Inform future risk assessments;
  • Build up baseline data for trend analyses;
  • Identify priority areas where further sampling may be required;
  • Identify high risk areas of the Scottish food supply chain where there is a need for guidance or training for food producers and enforcement authorities;
  • Highlight areas where FSS should be working with industry representatives, businesses and enforcement authorities to initiate corrective actions and prevent further microbiological issues.

FSS propose a targeted surveillance programme that covers a single commodity each year period. FSS have undertaken the initial step of reviewing existing evidence from past food incidents, combined with historic results and surveillance programmes to establish priority areas for surveillance. The commodities below have been equally prioritised and will be surveyed for their microbiological quality over the next 5-10 years.  Please note this is not necessarily the order in which they will be undertaken.   

  1. Ready to eat meat and fish products
  2. Other ready to eat products e.g. prepared salads
  3. Dairy products
  4. Red meat and game e.g. minced meat
  5. Fresh produce
  6. Imported products
  7. Shellfish
  8. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in ready-to-eat (RTE) foods including imported products

The proposed methodology for this surveillance programme includes:

  • Consulting with key stakeholders (such as industry representatives) on the rationale and design of the surveillance programme before it commences (this survey);
  • Consulting with key stakeholders prior to each individual survey within the surveillance programme to allow time to comment before sampling commences.  
  • As part of the consultation process, FSS will ask stakeholders if they have data in any of the areas of interest identified that they would be willing to share with FSS to support our aims and help us to target resources more effectively;
  • Design of statistically valid surveys specifically targeted to cover, for example, seasonal variation, geographical representation, market share or range (e.g. premium vs. value);
  • Provision of information to all local authorities to advise of the undertaking of each individual survey and when the sampling is estimated to take place;
  • Provision of information to all food businesses to advise sampling has been conducted at their premises.  This will be done via either a standard letter or leaflet briefly advising the rationale and processes specific to that survey;
  • As far as is possible, ensuring microbiological laboratory analyses are conducted on samples that are still within their shelf life to provide an accurate representation;
  • Where possible, delivery of samples to the microbiological laboratory within 24 hours of being taken;
  • Testing of samples will have a target turnaround time of 72 hours and results will be provided to food businesses and relevant competent authorities in real-time to ensure that action can be taken if required;
  • Microbiological testing of samples will be carried out by an accredited laboratory;
  • Retention of samples for the duration of each study and retention of any positives or adverse results for a further 6-24 months;
  • Analysis of results to determine of relationships exist between certain industry practices and high/ low levels of microbiological pathogens;
  • Regular updates provided throughout each survey to food businesses and enforcement authorities, particularly with regards to adverse results;
  • Provision of a copy of the final report and results will be provided to all relevant stakeholders upon completion of each survey;
  • Each survey will be carried out by an approved subcontractor and not directly by FSS staff;
  • Opportunity for stakeholders to comment prior to publication of final report;
  • Publication of the final report on our website.  FSS is committed to openness and transparency and all research is made publically available.

Why your views matter

FSS is required under the Food Safety Act 1990 to consult with those affected by its activities. 

The purpose of this consultation exercise is to provide all interested stakeholders the opportunity to comment on the rationale and design of FSS's proposed Targeted Surveillance Programme for Microbiological Food Safety in Scotland.  Input is sought from stakeholders regarding their opinions on the proposed programme and how this should be undertaken.

The consultation will be open for eight weeks until the 31st October 2017. 


What happens next

Thank you for participating in this consultation.  FSS will now review all the responses and we will publish the results in due course.


  • Food Manafacturer
  • Food Producer
  • Retailer
  • Enforcer
  • Fisherman
  • Farmer
  • Local Authority
  • Public Analyst Laboratory
  • Food Industry
  • Local Authority
  • Public analyst laboratory
  • Local authority
  • Primary producer
  • Farmer
  • FSA


  • Microbiological safety of food
  • food surveillance
  • foodborne illness
  • scientific advice
  • food
  • food safety