Critical analysis of the existing food sampling programmes
Existing food sampling programmes used by the local authorities, if they exist, operate in a 'hit or miss' fashion, and the use of small sample size is common in the programmes. Although the U.K. food co-ordination network is well developed, the complexity of the three-way systems creates many complications and duplications. Also, compliance with the European legislation generates extra burdens to the U.K. governments. A national survey was undertaken in 1998 to investigate the purpose and effectiveness on local authonty food sampling. Although only half of the returns believed that local food programmes contributed significantly to the prevention of foodborne illness, over three-quarters agreed that the programmes could be improved upon. It was clearly shown that U.K. local authorities were eager to advance their sampling regime, but were handicapped by resource constraints. The local authorities stated that improvement could be achieved if sampling activities were increased. Because sampling involves errors due to uncertainties and variations, a statistically validated sampling model was developed in an attempt to determine suitable sample sizes under various sample proportions that would also satisfy good normal approximation in order to reduce margin of error to a minimum. However, the model illustrated that current sampling regimes were far from reaching the minimum requirement. In the main, if sampling has a part in food safety activities, then central government support towards sampling and analysis cost is vital. Routine sampling can be undertaken collectively at a regional basis, and such high cost may be split among local authorities. Alternatively, a requirement can be placed upon food premises to undertake their own sampling, and officers will then carry out local audits. Finally, further investigations should be extended to the determination of many contaminants' limits and the cost benefit analysis along the chain of causality.