Food sampling

Every month officers from this department take samples of many different foods from a range of premises within the Bassetlaw district, which are then tested by a laboratory to ensure that they are safe to eat.

We decide which foods will be tested based on a program set out to meet the requirements of European, national and local priorities. These can be from the local corner shop, through to larger supermarkets and also from businesses that manufacture food on site. Therefore, a cross-section of food businesses within the district will have their food sampled during each year.

The samples taken are also varied and can include food stuffs, water, dairy items and/or environmental samples. Environmental samples may be obtained by the swabbing of work-surfaces or the sampling of dishcloths.

The samples are collected under aseptic conditions, so that they are not open to contamination in any way during sampling. They are then transported under appropriate temperature control conditions, to the Health Protection Agency laboratory for bacteriological analysis.

The laboratory carry out the tests and notify us of results within a short time period. Where there are any concerns identified we will be notified by telephone immediately so that any poor results can be followed up by an investigation. Depending on the cause of the concern this could involve inspection of the business or more formal action. It may be that the problem relates to the production of food in another part of the country in which case we would liaise with other local authorities to ensure that no foods of unsatisfactory bacteriological standard are sold.

Food Sampling Policy



Food sampling is an important activity which plays a key part in the protection of public health and food safety within the district of Bassetlaw. It helps provide useful information on the microbiological safety of foods stored, prepared, served or otherwise handled within food businesses operating in the area which in turn feeds into intelligence driving planned enforcement and educational programs. 

This policy sets out the Council's general approach to food sampling and how it is to be interpreted for specific situations such as inspections, complaints, primary authority, regional sampling programs, etc. 

Specific annual sampling priorities are prepared each year in consultation with the sampling sub-group of the Nottinghamshire Food Liaison Group. The group includes representation from all Nottinghamshire local food authorities in addition to the Food Standards Agency and Public Health England. 

General principles

We will ensure that food is inspected and sampled in accordance with relevant legislation, the Food Safety Act Code of Practice and other specifically issued guidance to ensure it meets food safety requirements. 

We will aim to plan and undertake a varied, balanced and relevant annual sampling program each year. The following elements will make up the sampling program. 

  • Routine process monitoring sampling in respect of premises which are approved under product specific legislation
  • Routine sampling in respect to premises who have a home, originating or primary authority arrangement with the Council
  • Sampling used where appropriate as part of the Councils routine food safety inspection program to help evaluate issues including temperature control, food handling and processing practices in relation to hazard analysis requirements
  • Sampling to participate and support voluntary co-ordinated national sampling programs
  • Sampling as required by the Food Standards Agency
  • Sampling used to assist in the determination of a course of action where deficiencies in practices are noted within a food business
  • Sampling used to support the investigation of a suspected food poisoning outbreak and other similar contamination issues
  • Ad hoc sampling submitted to a Public Analyst as required 
  • Ad hoc sampling in relation to specific events where either a specific risk is identified or where it is necessary to determine the safety of food and water supplies

Arrangements for implementation

We will ensure that all samples are procured by suitably qualified, experienced and authorised Officers. Said officers will have received proper training in sampling techniques and be supplied with appropriate equipment. 

In general we will procure samples from food businesses by purchasing them. Food business operators will be notified at the point of sampling that a sample has been taken and provided with suitable contact details and receipt if required. 

In the interests of minimising disruption to businesses we will where possible combine visits for sampling purposes with other visits such as routine food safety inspections. This will not always be possible or appropriate. 

Food samples taken for examination will be submitted for microbiological analysis to Public Health England’s York Laboratory (accredited under UKAS for appropriate microbiological examination of food). Food samples submitted for other types of analysis such as chemical composition will be submitted to appropriately UKAS accredited Public Analysts.

Where samples are taken from a food business, we will notify the appropriate food business operator of the results. Where the sample results are unsatisfactory, unacceptable or potentially hazardous officers will attempt to contact the food business operator as a matter of urgency. Satisfactory sample results will be notified to food business operators either via follow up correspondence, email or telephone call.

Where an unsatisfactory, unacceptable or potentially hazardous sample result is discovered we will, in consultation with the appropriate laboratory, issue appropriate advice to the affected business and undertake a re-sample of the relevant item.

Appropriate enforcement action will be taken in accordance with our Enforcement Policy where unsatisfactory, unacceptable or potential hazardous sample results are received.

Where sample results indicate a problem or hazard with food that has originated from another local authorities area, the relevant local authority will be informed as soon as is possible. Due consideration will be given to any home or primary authority partnership arrangements which are in place.

Any sample results which indicate a problem or hazard regarding imported food will be reported to the Food Standards Agency.


Food sampling activities will be carried out by Officers from the Environmental Health Department. 

Sampling credit allocations issues from Public Health England will finance most microbiological food sampling undertaken. Any additional or ancillary microbiological sampling will be provided from the Environmental Health Departments budget. 

Food sampling programmes

Exact numbers of sampling taken will be determined by the requirements for each individual sampling activity, accordingly precise figures such as number of samples per month ifs difficult to determine. We do however undertake to participate in all relevant local and national sampling programs and where possible take at least 5 samples per month. 

The current Food Safety Service Plan should be referred to for specific details regarding the planned current annual sampling activities. 

Policy review

To ensure this policy remains current and up to date it shall be subject to full review and revision once every 3 years or following any significant changes to legislation, practice or procedure. 


Last Updated on Tuesday, March 21, 2023