The Commission is required,1 in close cooperation with EFSA and Member States, to prepare a general plan for crisis management in the area of food and feed safety. The general plan must specify the types of situation involving direct or indirect risks to human health deriving from food and feed which are not likely to be prevented, eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level by existing arrangements or cannot adequately be managed solely by way of emergency measures.2
The general plan must also specify the practical arrangements necessary to manage a crisis, including principles of transparency to be applied and a communication strategy.
Member States, in support of the General Plan, are required4 to draw up operational contingency plans setting out measures to be implemented without delay when feed or food is found to pose a serious risk to humans or animals either directly or through the environment.
These contingency plans must specify the administrative authorities to be engaged, their powers and responsibilities and the channels and procedures for sharing information between the relevant parties.
The Single Integrated National Control Plan for the United Kingdom details the roles and responsibilities of the different authorities and associated organisations involved in the monitoring of compliance with, and enforcement of, feed and food law, animal health and welfare rules and plant health requirements.
The FSA’s Incident Response Protocol is a key component of the UK’s National Control Plan.5 The Protocol outlines the procedures that should be followed during food and feed incidents and emergencies and describes notification procedures, roles and responsibilities during incidents, and the arrangements for the closure and review of incidents. The FSA produced Principles for preventing and responding to food incidents as guidance for food businesses to prevent and deal effectively with food incidents as they arise. The definition of ‘food incident’ falls into one of three categories6 as follows:
Minor incidents, with localised effects and few, if any, food safety implications. Examples include barn fires, vehicles in rivers, minor oil spills. Dealt with as routine incidents at branch/divisional level.
Incidents involving evidence of illness (food poisoning, for example), impact on vulnerable groups (babies, pregnant women or the elderly), breaches of statutory limits (mycotoxins, for example). In some cases the public or media are likely to express some concern. Generally dealt with at divisional level.
Severe incidents (potential to cause deaths, serious illness, for example), complex (large number of products affected, a high level of resources required to manage, for example), widespread and likely to generate a high level of concern in public and media perception of the issue. These incidents involve directors and the Chief Executive.
2 Ibid., Articles 53 and 54
5 See Single Integrated National Control Plan for the United Kingdom, paras 4.49ff