New report from the U.K.’s Food Safety Agency shows increase in number of food incidents last year

A combination of reasons led to an increase in the number of food incidences in the United Kingdom last year from prior years, including a rise in monitoring and reporting.

The Food Safety Agency’s (FSA) Annual Report of Incidents listed 1,714 food incidents in 2011, up from 1,505 in 2010 and 1,208 in 2009, according to the report, which was published Monday.

Within those figures, reports of microbiological contamination are up from 147 in 2006 to 281 in 2011. In 2010, there were 271 such reports.

Some of the increase has been attributed to extra testing of paan leaves, following concerns about Salmonella contamination. The leaves, also known as betel leaves, are chewed to cleanse the palate or to help with digestion, according to the FSA.

In November 2011, the FSA issued a warning regarding paan leaves imported from Bangladesh and Salmonella. An FSA case study reported 37 strains of Salmonella were found on various paan leaf samples.

It was not just microbiological incidents that jumped – reports of pesticide incidences also are on the rise, from 55 in 2010 to 102 in 2011. The report attributes part of this jump to an increase in testing of okra, following alerts issued after illegal pesticides were discovered.

Some interesting notes from the report:

  • The three most prevalent incidence categories were: 1. environmental – 21%, 2. natural chemical contamination – 17%, and 3. microbiological contamination –16%.
  • Of all the incidences, seven were considered “high level,” including the E. coli O104 outbreak in Germany and Fukushima nuclear emergency in Japan.
  • The FSA also detailed some of its preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. An interesting fact – about 14 million meals will be served throughout the games making it the “largest peacetime catering operation in the world.”

To read the full report, click here.

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