Kate Allen How can you be sure what’s in that tasty meat pie?

by Kate Allen and Hannah Kuchler

Food-related law enforcement, that’s how.

On the face of it, the UK has a fairly strict food hygiene and safety system. But the rapidly-widening horsemeat scandal has prompted questions about the effectiveness of the UK’s food law enforcement systems. And a look at performance data collected by the the Food Standards Agency shows a picture of falling sampling and lower staffing levels.

Explore how your area compares in our interactive map at the bottom of the post

While the FSA itself monitors abattoirs and meat-cutting plants, most other food law enforcement is the responsibility of councils. They inspect all types of food retailing, from fast food joints’ deep fat fryers to hotels’ coffee – and, yes, supermarket lasagne.

While there has only been a slight decrease in the number of establishments being rated for food hygiene, the amount of food sampling being carried out has fallen fairly substantially in recent years. This is the more expensive side of enforcement, and it’s what tells you what’s in your meat pie.

UK food sampling by type of analysis


The reason for this seems clear – staffing levels are also on a downward track.

Food law enforcement staff


The picture in terms of checks and rating is far from uniform; there is a wide variation in performance between councils.

Explore how your area compares with this interactive map.

Map by Callum Locke

Hygiene inspections are carried out by district councils, while county councils carry out standards inspections. The data shown here presents district councils’ hygiene results and their parent county councils’ standards results. Some local authorities combine the two functions, so in some cases the data stated will include both standards and hygiene figures.
The data for some local authorities was unavailable. Data was sourced from the Food Standards Agency.