Cover: Strategic Surveillance for Food Safety

Strategic Surveillance for Food Safety

Designing a surveillance approach and considerations for implementation

Published May 13, 2019

by Jon Freeman, Nathan Ryan, Julian Glenesk

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Research Questions

  1. What is an approach to strategic surveillance that can provide a highly reliable source of robust data and intelligence across the FSA and the UK food system?
  2. How can an approach be formalised into a process flow, ensuring the high-level end-to-end cycle is mapped, understood and implemented with key stakeholders?
  3. What are the tools and techniques required to implement each step?
  4. Which areas of work are required to fully implement the end-to-end approach?
  5. What are the recommendations on the feasibility and impact of each step?

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) engaged RAND Europe to assist with the design and implementation of a strategic surveillance system for the UK food system. This is in support of a broader programme of work at the FSA, launched in late 2017, to develop a new approach to strategic surveillance that is data-driven, proactive and flexible. The study team was tasked to produce an end-to-end cycle with implementation steps; identify tools and techniques to implement against each step of the approach; and, develop recommendations on the feasibility and impact of the steps being implemented. RAND Europe analysis took a top-down approach (i.e. by using existing FSA models) and a bottom-up approach (i.e. clustering themes emerging from interview data) in order to produce a proposed operating model for strategic surveillance. RAND Europe designed an overall approach to strategic surveillance comprised of five connected yet discrete steps, which were: Plan and direct; Collect and collate; Analyse and produce; Report and disseminate, and; Evaluate and review. As a result of the study, RAND Europe produced eight implementation steps for the FSA to consider going forward.


  • Selecting and prioritising topics should be undertaken using a data-driven, repeatable and informed decision making process.
  • The FSA should undertake forecasting and horizon scanning activities to identify unknown unknowns.
  • The surveillance programme should continue to identify and engage stakeholders.
  • There is a need to define the process for acting on and communicating assessments.
  • The FSA should increase its visibility amongst stakeholders to assist data collection and future action.
  • The approach should continue leveraging existing data and link together data sources to exploit insights.
  • The FSA should compile a data catalogue based on metadata.
  • Skills, knowledge and experience should be captured (i.e. in the form of a skills and methods catalogue) to assist the FSA to structure problem solving and implement the approach.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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