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Food surveillance is conducted by the Authorities to:

  • support food inspection activities

  • ensure compliance with legal limits for microorganisms and chemical contaminants in food

  • ensure foods comply with legal restrictions on the use of certain ingredients and processing technologies

  • ensure the authenticity of certain foods

  • provide data for risk assessment and risk management activitiesidentify the pathogens found in foodstuffs for the purpose of monitoring trends and establishing public health priorities for control and prevention strategies

  • remove contaminated products from the market

  • detect outbreaks and assist with their investigation.

How is surveillance carried out?

Surveillance by enforcement officers

Surveillance involves the sampling and testing of foods. This can be done in many ways.

  • Predominantly, food samples are taken by food law enforcement officers and sent to food control laboratories funded by the State.
  • Samples can be taken at the time of inspection of a food business or taken randomly at retail or wholesale level.
  • Samples can also be taken on foot of a food complaint or to support an outbreak investigation.

The food control laboratories work to rigorous standards and possess the latest analytical equipment. The results of these tests are communicated back to the enforcement officer, who takes appropriate action, and also to the FSAI who formulates a national picture of food controls and communicates this to the European Commission.

FSAI specific surveillance projects

In certain circumstances the FSAI also organises specific surveillance projects. These are focussed on specific foodstuffs and specific tests. Sometimes samples are taken by the food law enforcement officers and at other times samples are taken by the FSAI itself. Where possible these samples are tested in the food control laboratories but where necessary the testing is conducted in accredited third party laboratories.

Reports on food surveillance activities and who does what in food surveillance

Select one of the following links:

Microbiological Surveillance

Chemical Surveillance

Genetically Modified Food Surveillance

Irradiated Food Surveillance

Labelling Surveillance