The UK operates a system of food alerts and at a European level there is the EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF).
2 Food Alerts
New arrangements for food alerts, product withdrawals and product recalls were put in place in June 2010.1
A Food Alert for Action (FAFA) is a communication from the FSA to a food authority concerning a food hazard or other food incident, and a Food Alert Update (FAU) should be read accordingly. The FSA will clearly specify any action or response required of a food authority. A FAFA is issued where intervention by enforcement authorities is required and are often issued in conjunction with a product withdrawal or recall by a manufacturer, retailer or distributor.
Information on product recalls or withdrawals is issued by means of a Product Withdrawal Information Notice or Product Recall Information Notice to let food authorities and consumers know about problems associated with food. They are issued where a solution to the problem has been put in place, for example, the product has been, or is being, withdrawn from sale or recalled from consumers.
Allergy Alerts are also issued by the FSA to communicate quickly allergen risks directly to the consumer. Food authorities receive copies of Allergy Alerts for information only.
3 EU Rapid Alert System
The EU Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) enables the prompt exchange of information between Member States and provides for the notification of direct or indirect risks to human health deriving from food or feed.5 The network includes the Member States, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Commission which is also responsible for managing the network.
Where a member of the network has any information relating to the existence of a serious direct or indirect risk to human health deriving from food or feed, it must immediately be notified to the Commission who must immediately circulate it to the members of the network. EFSA may supplement the information with scientific or technical information to facilitate rapid risk management action.6
A Member State must, in particular, notify the Commission and provide a detailed reasoned explanation of:
Any measure adopted aimed at restricting the placing on the market or forcing the withdrawal or recall of food or feed to protect human health and requiring rapid action.
Any recommendation or agreement with professional operators, voluntary or otherwise, aimed at preventing, limiting or imposing specific conditions on the placing on the market or the eventual use of food or feed on account of a serious risk to human health requiring rapid action.
Any rejection, related to a direct or indirect risk to human health, of a batch, container or cargo of food or feed by a competent authority at an EU border post.
A Member State must inform the Commission immediately of any action taken following receipt of a notification and supplementary information received under the RASFF. The Commission, in turn, must immediately provide this information to the members of the network.7
Information is classified as follows:
Alert notifications – when food or feed presenting a risk is on the market and immediate action is required.
Information notifications – which concern a food or feed for which a risk has been identified, but which does not require action by other network members because it has not reached their market.
News notifications – which have not been communicated by a Member State as an alert notification or information notification but concern information considered to be of interest.
The RASFF is open to applicant countries, third countries or international organisations, on the basis of reciprocal agreements with those countries or international organisations.8
3 Send the text message 'START FOOD' to the number 62372. To unsubscribe text 'STOP FOOD' to the same number.
4 The URL is: http://www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/alerts/?view=rss
6 Ibid., Article 50(2)
7 Ibid., Article 50(5)
8 Ibid., Article 50(6)