We take food samples from food businesses to help make sure that what we eat is safe and wholesome.

We may take samples either routinely or as part of an investigation into a complaint, to monitor how effective a manufacturing process is, following a food poisoning outbreak, or as part of a national programme looking at a particular problem which is recognised across the country.

Microbiological examination of food allows us to compare the levels of different bacteria found against those we expect to find in similar types of product. This helps us to assess whether the food was handled hygienically, stored correctly or would be a risk to health if consumed.

Why is sampling carried out?

Sampling helps assess the safety of food produced or handled by a business and also the safety of the environment where food is produced/manufactured. The results provide information on whether food was handled hygienically, stored properly, or would be a risk to health if consumed.

Will I always know if a sample has been taken?

No. Sampling visits are not usually booked, and not always announced - sometimes samples are purchased as normal customers would do.

What happens to the sample once the officer has visited?

The sample is submitted to the Public Health England laboratory for microbiological examination.

Will I be informed of the sampling result?

All food sampling results will be notified to the relevant business, in writing either by post or by email.

What happens if my results are unsatisfactory?

We are normally notified by telephone if the laboratory isolates high levels of indicator or pathogenic organisms (i.e. potentially harmful bacteria). We would then work with the business to try and identify the source of the problem. We may take further formal food samples.