Innovative food safety techniques adopted during the Olympic and Paralympic Games have created a legacy for the industry, claims the Food Standard Agency's (FSA's) chief scientist Dr Andrew Wadge.
Wadge said it was a "massive achievement" that there were no major food-related incidents during the games and that many of the safety measures adopted were now being rolled-out across the country.
The FSA co-ordinated a national food sampling programme and increased the funding available for London and other host boroughs to pay for extra surveillance work and inspections. It also provided swab test equipment for onsite testing, alongside additional training courses for inspection staff.
'Huge amount of work'
"Finally, the FSA coordinated a programme of food-safety-related interventions, aimed at supply-chain manufacturers and suppliers, who in turn were supplying the main caterers for the Games," said Wadge. "There really was a huge amount of work involved."
Wadge said a detailed review of the FSA's role at the Games would be published early this year.
However, one particular success already identified was the deployment of 'innovative' swab testing for bacteria something the local authorities involved are continuing to use today.
"We provided 150 hygiene monitoring units, 15,000 food surface swabs and 3,000 water filtration units, which were supplied to host boroughs with venues, tourist and transport hotspots and to LOCOG [London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games] for monitoring inside the venues," said Wadge.
"This equipment meant that enforcement officers were able to test surfaces being used to prepare food for levels of ATP [adenosine triphosphate]. ATP is an indication of bacterial contamination. Results from the tests were available within 15 seconds."
The swab test units that were given to LOCOG have been returned and will be redistributed for use by other UK local authorities.
Wadge added: "This was the first time the equipment had been used both within and outside venues. I expect it was also one of the first times it'd been used on such a large scale here in the UK."
Looking ahead, Wadge said a number of local authorities wanted to continue using these approaches.
Wadge added: "The fact that there were no major food-related incidents during the Olympic and Paralympic games is a massive achievement for everyone involved and testament to the huge preparations made beforehand."
Wadge will be taking part in a free food science and technology webinar taking place at 11am GMT on Thursday January 24.
Organised by FoodManufacture.co.uk and the Institute of Food Science & Technology (IFST), the webinar aims to move the debate about controversial food topics onto a more secure scientific footing.
Also taking part will be Sue Davies of consumer watchdog Which? and Nicole Patterson of Leatherhead Food Research. For more details and to book your free place, click here .