HC Deb 27 March 2003 vol 402 cc393-5W
Mr. Roger Williams

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many food samples have been tested for correct(a) labelling, (b) composition, (c) claims and (d) other presentational matters in each of the last 10 years; and what proportion of those samples were found not to comply with the statements made about them; [102865]

(2) how many food sample checks regarding labelling have been undertaken by (a) the Food Standards Agency and (b) local authorities in each of the last 10 years. [103010]

Ms Blears

Details of food sampling checks by local authorities are not recorded in the form requested by the hon. Member. It is not possible to identify separately those samples taken for labelling purposes for all of the last ten years. Such information that is available for all sampling activity is shown in the tables.

The responsibility for enforcing the food labelling regulations, made under the Food Safety Act 1990, rests with local authorities. Figures for samples taken for this purpose are shown in table 1.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) receives annual returns from local authorities, under the European Union's Official Controls Directive, EEC/89/397, for all food sampling activity, not just for labelling checks. Before 2001, details of the reasons why samples were found to be unsatisfactory are not readily available. However, in 2001, under the new Framework Agreement on local authority food law enforcement, implemented by the FSA with effect from 1 January that

Table 2: Food Authenticity Programme Surveys
Date Published Survey Title Number of samples taken Proportion of samples deemed unsatisfactory (Percentage) Tested for: Labelling (L), Composition (C) or both (L,C)
October 1993 Fish and fish products 239 9 L
May 1994 Authenticity of soluble coffee 344 15 C
February 1995 Dried durum wheat pasta 249 Less than 1 L
November 1995 Single seed vegetable oils 291 8 C
April 1996 Labelling of previously frozen meat and poultry 534 8 L
March 1997 Undeclared irradiation of foodstuffs 789 Less than 1 L
November 1997 Added water in cured pork 614 3 L
November 1997 Whisky substitution in the on-trade 161 3 L
September 1998 Substitution of smoked salmon with trout 289 2 L
April 1999 Orange juice authenticity 186 0 L
April 1999 Substitution of species in meat products 570 15 L
June 1999 Authenticity of olive oils 125 3 C
March 2000 Apple juice authenticity 151 Less than 1 L
April 2000 Tuna species in tuna products 607 Less than 1 L
Nov 2000 Added water in whole chickens and chicken parts 261 27 L,C
December 2001 Meat content, added water and hydrolysed protein catering chicken breasts 68 46 L,C
May 2002 Corn (maize) oil survey 61 0 C
June 2002 Irradiated Foods—herbs and spices, dietary supplements and prawn and shrimps 543 12 L
August 2002 Antimony, arsenic, bromate and nickel contents of bottled water 161 0 C

year, 17 per cent. (27,280 samples) of the 163,993 official and informal samples taken were found to be unsatisfactory. Of these unsatisfactory samples, 31 per cent. (8,418) were found to be unsatisfactory with regard to labelling and presentation, and 24 per cent. (6,551) for composition.

Official samples are those taken in the course of an official inspection procedure under the Food Safety Act 1990, where the results can be used in legal proceedings if appropriate. Informal samples are taken during other visits, such as for monitoring or screening.

Over the last ten years, the FSA and its predecessor bodies have published the results of a number of surveys aimed at identifying problems with the labelling of food products, and carried out under its Food Authenticity Programme. These surveys have covered 6,523 samples, as shown in table 2.

Table 1: Samples for all Foodstuffs Figures for the United Kingdom, for all sampling purposes
Total number of official samples Total number of informal samples
1992 65,398 176,433
1993 67,959 179,001
1994 65,162 181,202
1995 63,726 183,327
1996 62,350 168,972
1997 65,130 158,687
1998 59,950 138,099
1999 50,379 140,719
2000 41,089 137,349
20011,2 86,614 77,379
1 The definitions of official and informal samples changed in 2001;
2 The 2001 figures have been revised and corrected since the OCD return was made on 31 July 2002.


UK return under European Union Official Controls Directive, EEC/89/397

Table 2: Food Authenticity Programme Surveys
Date Published Survey Title Number of samples taken Proportion of samples deemed unsatisfactory (Percentage) Tested for: Labelling (L), Composition (C) or both (L,C)
December 2002 Added water in raw scallops, ice£glazed (peeled) scampi tails and scampi content in coated (breaded) scampi products. 255 37 L
March 2003 Meat content, added water and hydrolysed protein in catering chicken breast. 25 60 L,C
Total 6,523