An official website of the United States government.

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

A Pilot Study using Archive Retrieval Methods to Record and Review Food Safety Breakdowns

University of Salford
Start date
End date
The project will test a method for the review of both high and low profile events over the past 10 years using various routes to obtain information. Following a preliminary conventional review and meta-analysis of published materials describing adverse food safety incidents, a data recording framework will be established. The framework will accommodate microbiological, chemical and physical hazards and the facility for search and identification of incidents by location, scale, chronology, category, food commodity, food process, stage in the foods chain and reported contributory factors.

The framework will then be developed and enhanced by the collection of additional data using archival research techniques. This will involve searching complaints files held by food companies, scientific investigators and regulatory agencies, tracing back of food hazard warnings and product recalls, and investigation of incidents reported in printed and broadcast media.

The outputs from this pilot study will include: evaluation of the suitability of the archival research methods adopted for the identification of the required information; the appropriateness of the framework designed for recording and accessing information; a database developed using the framework; and identification of some key areas where food industry and regulatory agency resources should be targeted to ensure a reduction in adverse events occurring in the future.

More information
In the UK, food safety standards are regulated by local government departments. These are appointed as Food Authorities to conduct inspection of premises, investigation of complaints and sampling of foodstuffs.

Public analysts, food examiners and/or the Public Health Laboratory Service provide scientific investigatory services. Much of the data generated by these enforcement teams is unpublished, but is held in the files of these various organisations and in returns made to central government.

Food safety failures result in exposure of consumers to hazards, which can be physical, chemical and microbiological. Each of these types of hazard results in different adverse outcomes that are then investigated and reviewed by the different agencies. The outputs of investigations of incidents of physical, chemical and microbiological contamination and reviews of the incidence of foodborne illness reflect the varying remits of the investigating and reporting bodies and are presented to meet the needs of different audiences.

There is no single source of data on the extent of adverse effects associated with the consumption of food and, more importantly, no readily accessible view of the incidence of food safety failures in the UK. Determination of such a view will enable the Agency to develop targeted initiatives for future improvements in the management and regulation of the food supply. Demonstration of effective outcomes will lead to a reduction in the incidence of adverse effects and improved consumer confidence.

Find more about this project and other FSA food safety-related projects at the Food Standards Agency Research webpage.

Funding Source
Food Standards Agency
Project number
Food Defense and Integrity
Bacterial Pathogens
Natural Toxins
Viruses and Prions
Chemical Contaminants