Legislation requires certain consignments to be subject to sampling, and laboratory testing to be undertaken. Samples may also be taken in response to intelligence and for monitoring purposes.
If the results come back and show the sample has failed, the importer may dispute the result. In such cases, there is a process set out in law that must be adhered to.
When the initial sample is taken (other than those for microbiological analysis) the sample is divided into three parts. This division is normally done by the receiving laboratory.
This, the ‘Port Health’ sample, is the part that is originally analysed by the laboratory.
This is referred to as the defence sample. If the importer disputes the sampling result from the analysis of part one, part two can be made available for testing by an authorised laboratory of the importer’s choosing.
This is referred to as the referee sample. In the event of the sampling results of the part two analysis being contrary to the results of the part one analysis, an independent analysis can be undertaken of part three.
If the importer wants to arrange to have their defence sample tested than this can be arranged and the sample sent to a laboratory for testing.
Please note, the laboratory selected cannot be the same laboratory that Port Health have used. This would cause a conflict of interest. The laboratory must be accredited to carry out the required tests to the recognised ISO standard.
Here is a link of approved Official Feed and Food Control Laboratories available Feed and food official laboratories | Food Standards Agency (other accredited laboratories may also be used)
It is the importers’ responsibility to arrange the collection and submission of their defence sample to their selected laboratory along with payment of all associated costs. Contact details for the laboratory will need to be provided to Port Health so the sample can be dispatched.
If the defence sample result agrees with the initial Port Health laboratory result, then this is binding and the decision by Port Health to refuse (or otherwise control) the consignment applies. If the defence sample result does not match the Port Health result, then a further referee analysis can be carried out.
Note: - It is sometimes possible to by-pass this stage and send the referee sample directly to the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC) (see the following section) without the importer’s own analysis being conducted. This must be carried out with the prior consent of LGC and is usually in exceptional circumstances. If this is carried out, then the sample costs from LGC may be significantly increased and the importer will be responsible for all costs.
The Official Arbitrator in the UK is the Laboratory of the Government Chemist (LGC). They will carry out further testing on the referee sample and will make a binding decision. The analysis that is carried out is extensive and the process is very detailed, so this analysis can be more time consuming than the official control laboratory analysis.
LGC will analyse the referee sample and provide the final result and decision for the consignment.
This decision must be adhered to by all parties involved.
Port Health will pay 50% of the final analysis cost where there is a dispute between the results of the Port Health sample and the defence sample.
If an importer would like to continue with the analysis of the defence sample, please confirm in writing to Dover Port Health, and we can then advise of the next steps.
In the case of microbiological samples / contaminants, due to the highly perishable nature of the products concerned a sample for referee analysis may not be provided. There are also issues with the distribution of micro-organisms within a food consignment which may not be homogenous (evenly distributed).