We sample foods to make sure it is clean and safe to eat.

Environmental Health Officers visit retailers, caterers and manufactures to take samples of the food they sell or make. Food sampling can be part of national campaigns, for example, taking salads from fast food premises to monitor for cross contamination, and cooked chicken from retail premises checked for microbiological safety. The samples are sent to the Public Health laboratory for examination.

Where unsatisfactory results are obtained further investigations are made and corrective action put in place to improve standards.

For more information on food sampling in the Rother area please view our Sampling Policy and Programme for 2021-2022.

Food Sampling Policy 2021-2022

The Food and Safety Team of the Rother and Wealden Environmental Health Service recognise how food and water sampling, examination and analysis is a significant control measure in securing food safety and hygiene, monitoring compliance with legal standards, and ultimately protecting the final consumer.

Food and water sampling also provides useful information to:

  • Assist in making local risk based decisions on the food work programme
  • Inform businesses and reassure the public about food safety issues
  • Provide evidence to food businesses on the effectiveness of their management systems, procedures and standards
  • Address local and national food safety campaigns and concerns.

Suitably qualified, trained and authorised Environmental Health Officers will be responsible for
undertaking the food sampling function. Samples are taken in compliance with the Code of Practice.

Each year the shared service develops and publishes a sampling programme, as required by the Food Law
Code of Practice (England) March 2021. This Policy has also been prepared in consultation with the Public
Analysis and the Food Examiner.

When developing the annual programme, we will ensure it will be delivered within existing recourses, and
have regard to:

  • the previous years’ sampling results
  • local businesses that either manufacture or retail high risk products
  • food complaints
  • national or local campaigns or issues

Sampling During Routine Inspections

Food sampling is not normally carried out during routine food hygiene inspections, although the decision whether to take samples is at the discretion of the inspecting officer. Circumstances where it maybe deemed appropriate for sampling to be carried out during an inspection:

  • If there is a history of poor food sample analysis results from the premises
  • If the officer suspects food safety controls may not adequately protect the safety of the food
  • If a complaint or an allegation of food poisoning has been received in respect of food at that premises.

More commonly officers may carryout hygiene swabbing of surfaces or equipment. The APT swabs used by officers provide a means of checking and demonstrating if the controls used by a food business are effective

Types of Sampling – Routine

National Sampling Campaigns

Each year Public Health England (PHE) publishes a number of sampling Studies which every Local Authority is encouraged to participate in. This shared service recognises and fully supports these national Campaigns as they help to identify and research areas of concern, and to establish microbiological criteria for the composition of different food and food products.

Regional Sampling Campaigns

Normally, the Sussex Food Liaison Group surveys its members to identify any local and regional food safety concerns which would benefit from further sampling data. However, due to the Covid-19 Pandemic, this year’s topics have been established by the regional PHE labs at Colindale and Porton Down. All Local Authorities linked to these two labs are invited to participate in these campaigns. Again, the Rother and Wealden shared service is committed to participating fully with these projects.

Rother and Wealden District Monitoring (Local)

The districts of Rother and Wealden are home to a number of manufacturers of ready to eat foods, including a number of approved premises. During the year we will be carrying out sampling from some of these manufactures as part of a planned sampling study which will help verify food is being produced safely and in compliance with legal standards.

For 2021/22, sampling visits will be made to:

  • Rother and Wealden’s approved premises (excluding Egg Packers)
  • Business where unsatisfactory results were obtained during last years programme.

During sampling visits, a mixture of food, environmental swab and potable water samples will be taken, subject to the officer’s discretion. The samples will be submitted to our appointed accredited laboratory (Porton Down).

Rother and Wealden Cleaning Project (Local)

In 2019/20, Alternative Intervention Sampling Visits were undertaken across Rother and Wealden. These unannounced visits were undertaken at businesses due for inspection and who held a food hygiene rating of 5.

These focused inspections would utilise surface swabbing to establish the effectiveness of the cleaning and disinfection practices in place. Worktops, chopping boards, fridge door handles, meat slicers and taps are just a few examples of the swabs taken.

For 2021/22 the Cleaning Project is being expanded to include premises with high visitor numbers i.e. visitor attractions, wedding venues etc. The businesses must be due for inspection, however do not have to hold a 5 food hygiene rating, although they must be broadly Compliant.

Types of Sampling – Investigative

Such sampling will only be carried out when the investigating officer deems it appropriate, for example:

  • Before, during or after routine inspections of the purpose of enforcement, process monitoring, or to assess the safety of particular foods
  • Following a complaint (Food will normally be sent for analysis if formal action is likely as a result of the complaint, or where it is alleged that illness was caused by the consumption of the food in question).
  • As part of a special investigation e.g. a suspected food poisoning outbreak, product withdrawal etc.

Interpretation of Results

All sample results are interpreted using appropriate guidance for the product sampled i.e. Health Protection Agency Guidelines for Assessing the Microbiological Safety of Ready-to-Eat Foods Placed on the Market.

Where results are found to be unsatisfactory, or suggest a problem during handling, manufacture or cleaning, officers will normally visit the premises to investigate further and take appropriate action to protect public health. This may also involve the taking of re-samples.

Food businesses will be informed of the results of any food sampling carried out at their premises, both resulting from routine sampling projects or as part of a complaint or investigation.

Food Sampling Programme 2021-2022

Study 70: Legionella in hot and cold water systems, post COVID-19 lockdown (reactive Study)

Type: National PHE Sampling
Months: April 2021 – September 2021
Notes: Labs continuing to accept samples – liaise with Proton Down prior to sampling

Study 71: Ready-to-eat (RTE) Salads from retail and catering premises

Type: National PHE Sampling
Months: April 2021 – September 2021

Post Lockdown Study: Hygiene in Takeaways and Restaurants – Cross Reg

Type: Cross Regional Study (London and Porton PHE Labs)
Months: April 2021 – March 2022

Post Lockdown Study: Ready-to-eat Chicken Served Cold

Type: Cross Regional Study (London and Porton PHE Labs)
Months: April 2021 – March 2022

Local Sampling Programme: Planned Approved Premises/Manufactures Sampling

Type: Rother & Wealden
Months: April 2021 – March 2022

Cleaning Project: Swabbing from business ‘5 rated’ and/or high visitor numbers

Type: Rother & Wealden
Months: April 2021 – March 2022

District Intervention: Reactive Sampling (Sampling identified via programme food inspections or complaints)

Type: Rother & Wealden
Months: April 2021 – March 2022