The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is celebrating National Food Safety Week in the United Kingdom by recognizing the work of FSA staff and thousands of others across the food supply chain working behind-the-scenes to ensure that food is safe and what it says it is.
Under the banner of “the people who protect your plate,” FSA is using Food Safety Week to shine a light on the people working day in, day out to make sure consumers can trust the food on their plates.
“This wide range of people includes staff in abattoirs and inspectors who visit vineyards, warehouses, cutting plants and dairies. The week will also feature staff who tackle food crime and those who help to keep people living with food allergies and intolerances safe,” the Food Safety Week announcement says.
“Much of this work is done in partnership with local authorities, who are responsible for checking food safety and hygiene in more than 600,000 food businesses across the country like restaurants and caterers, issuing hygiene ratings under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Councils also help to protect public health through their trading standards and port health work.”
Jason Feeney, Chief Executive Officer of the Food Standards Agency, praised the United Kingdom’s protocols to prevent foodborne illnesses.
‘The UK has globally respected food standards, and our food and drink are rightly regarded as some of the safest in the world. More than one billion food products are sold every week It’s the responsibility of every food business – from abattoirs to corner shops, Michelin-starred restaurants to your favorite takeaway – to comply with food regulations,” Feeney said.
“This week we want to recognize the behind-the-scenes people throughout the food chain who work hard every day of the year to make sure businesses follow the rules and our food standards remain high. This is all thanks to the work of our staff and thousands of others across the food supply chain working behind-the-scenes to ensure that food is safe and what it says it is.”
Feeney said much of FSA’s work is done in partnership with local authorities, who are responsible for checking food safety and hygiene in more than 600,000 food businesses like restaurants and caterers, issuing hygiene ratings under the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
The CEO says FSA employs 1,059 people, across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, “who work day in, day out to make sure you can trust the food on your plates.”
From the staff in abattoirs, and inspectors who visit vineyards, warehouses, cutting plants and dairies, to those who protect you against food crime and keep people living with food allergies and intolerances safe, Feeney invited the public to “meet the people who protect your plate.”
The following people are examples of the more than 1,000 members of the UK’s food safety force.
Dineka Fleming-Ovens, Meat Hygiene and Dairy Inspector
“My job and the job of every meat and dairy inspector is ensuring that from farm to fork our produce is the safest it can possibly be – leaving you to simply enjoy each and every one of your meals.”
As a Meat Hygiene Inspector, Dineka carries out daily hygiene checks in slaughterhouses, cutting plants and factories as well as checking animal welfare conditions and inspecting live animals, game and poultry for signs of disease. Dineka’s daily responsibility involves ensuring consumers’ plates are only ever filled with meat that has come from safeguarded places meeting the highest of FSA’s hygiene standards.
As a dairy inspector, Dineka makes sure that a satisfactory standard of hygiene is maintained on all dairy farms by inspecting milking premises and equipment and milk-producing animals. The inspections help to protect the nation’s raw milk supply from the risk of contamination by bacteria and other substances.
Mark Dawson, Wine Inspection Team Leader
“With so many of the adult population regularly enjoying a good glass of wine, myself and my team make sure the consumer is always properly informed and assured about the quality and origin of their wine of choice.”
Mark and his Wine Inspection Team work from grape to glass to protect the consumer against counterfeit and contaminated goods. Mark is responsible for ensuring all wine products are appropriately labelled and correctly described, from Alcohol By Volume (ABV) to ingredients and provenance.
Working closely with other Government Departments such as DEFRA and HM Revenue & Customs to check import documentation, and local authorities to maintain proper trading standards at retail level, Mark and his team of inspectors safeguard the UK’s high food safety standards across all wine produce.
Ruth Willis, Senior Novel Food Policy Analyst
“I help support food businesses in providing the safe food consumers want and need. I am committed to meeting people’s high expectations for new products and furthering our national passion for trying innovative foods.”
Ruth is responsible for making sure new foods coming into the UK market are safe.
She works closely with a team of scientific experts and policy specialists to allow only the safest to reach our plates.
Over the last 20 years Ruth and the team’s work has included the authorisation of the cholesterol lowering ingredients which can be found in low fat spreads, and chia seeds – both now available in most UK supermarkets.
Ross Yarham, Food Allergy and Intolerance Research Programme Manager
“We strive to use robust science and evidence to inform all that we do. In my unique role, I help to setup and deliver high quality research studies that underpin our food allergy and intolerance work.”
Ross manages our Food Allergy and Intolerance Research Programme helping to provide research, expert risk assessment and specialist advice for food allergy and intolerance incidents in the UK.
Ross and his team ensure that all ingredient information is factually correct and scientifically proven, providing people with allergies and intolerances the vital confidence they need when buying their next meal.
With an estimated 2 million people in the UK now having a food allergy, Ross’s work is fundamental in ensuring nationwide food safety and enjoyment.
Tina Potter, Senior Incidents Officer
“What I am particularly proud of is the speed our work gets done and the extremely high standard of work that is achieved to make this happen.”
Twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year Tina and her team respond to food incidents reported by local authorities and food businesses.
After fully investigating all claims, Tina and her team take all necessary actions to protect consumers – whether that’s removing products from market or sending out alerts notifying consumers about risks, such as food items containing an allergen.
The number of reported incidents Tina and her team received last year was over 1,600, an average 45 incidents per week, including concerns with supplements, allergens, and illegal imports and exports.
Ed McDonald, Food Fraud Liaison Officer
“To do this kind of work you need to have an inquisitive nature and great perseverance. We want all consumers to be able to trust food and ensure food is what it says it is.”
As Food Fraud Liaison Officer Ed works with the National Food Crime Unit to identify illegal activity in the food supply chain. His work incorporates everything from working with police on the prevention of illegal deer poaching, right through to helping partners investigate labour exploitation in the illegal gathering of shellfish.
Ed’s work has also involved the online sale of illegal diet pills known as DNP, which is a highly toxic industrial chemical, mainly used as a pesticide.
DNP has led to the death of several people in the UK since the start of 2015, with a number of others becoming seriously ill. With this case, Ed and his team continue to work hard to raise awareness of the potentially fatal side effects of consuming DNP and try to prevent the sale.
David Cracknell, Shellfish Official Controls Manager
“On average, I look after 4000 tonnes of mussels, 850 tonnes of oysters, 13 tonnes of clams and 12 tonnes of cockles, monitoring their environments so that by the time they reach our plates, they’re nothing but delicious.”
David and his team assess shellfish areas including estuaries, rivers and coastal waters around the UK for all possible contaminations, including chemicals, toxins and environmental impacts such as rainfall.
The team take regular samples to provide a picture of the water quality and its potential effect on the shellfish to be harvested in that area.
In particular, David is on the lookout for various harmful toxins such as paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). David’s work is vital – one dose of PSP can result in paralysis and death within 20 minutes.
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