§ Mr. Roger Williams
To ask the Secretary of State for Health pursuant to his answer of 27 March 2003,Official Report, column 397W, on food labelling, for what reasons the number of informal samples of foodstuffs declined in the last 10 years; and what measures he is taking to reverse the trend. 
§ Ms Blears
[holding answer 6 May 2003]: The responsibility for the enforcement of food labelling Regulations and associated food sampling under the Food Safety Act 1990 rests with local authorities. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has raised its concerns about the decline in local authority food sampling activity and is taking forward a number of initiatives with local authorities to reverse the trend.
There appears to be no single cause for the fall in sampling. The FSA has carried out a focussed audit programme to examine local authority sampling and make recommendations. A report will be published later this year.
The FSA is already taking action to help to ensure that effective food sampling arrangements are in place in all local authorities. The FSA is working with local authorities co-ordinators of regulatory services (LACORS) to develop better co-ordination and targeting of food and feed standards sampling throughout the United Kingdom. Local authorities and public analysts are also being involved more closely in the FSAs own food surveillance activities.
The FSA is also working with LACORS and with the association of public analysts to develop a UK samples database, which will help local authorities to target their sampling programmes more effectively.105W
More emphasis has also been placed on sampling in the revised statutory code of practice, which is currently out for consultation. Under the code, local authorities are required to prepare and publish a food sampling policy and programme and make these available to food businesses and consumers. The FSA will also be providing more practical guidance on sampling for local authority enforcement officers.