Food Safety Information

NHS Supply Chain has appointed Support, Training & Services Ltd (STS) to carry out all food supplier assessments and to manage product complaints. STS are UKAS accredited.

Supplier Assessments

It is a requirement of award to the NHS Supply Chain Fresh Food Framework Agreement that all suppliers (whether distributors or manufacturers) achieve “Approved Supplier” status from NHS Supply Chain’s appointed Certification Body: Support, Training & Services Ltd (STS). Suppliers must hold this for the term of the Framework Agreement. Suppliers are audited at least annually and are required to hold certification to one of the following standards accepted by STS:

  • BRC Global Standard for Food Safety (Issue 7)
  • BRC Global Standard for Storage & Distribution (Issue 2)
  • BRC Global Standard for Agents & Brokers (Issue 1)
  • STS Code of Practice & Technical Standard for Suppliers to the Public Sector
  • STS Code of Practice for Manufacture, Distribution & Supply of Food Ingredients by Small or Regional Suppliers (small and micro suppliers only)
  • SALSA (small and micro suppliers only)

Revisions to these standards may occur during the life of the Framework Agreement. A copy of the STS Code of Practice & Technical Standard for Suppliers to the Public Sector can be found here

For further information on supplier assessments please contact a member of the NHS Supply Chain Food Team.

Food Complaints - Notification Procedure

  1. Although our suppliers must continually meet strict standards, occasionally an issue may arise with a product you receive. All food complaints should be recorded on the NHS Supply Chain Food Complaint Reporting Form and either faxed to the Food team at the NHS Supply Chain on 08706 079 778 or emailed to The Catering Manager should ensure that their Trust Procurement department is informed. For any enquiries about food complaints and the food safety contract, please contact the Food team on 01924 328 515.

    The form should include as much information as possible.

    Where there is no batch no./best before date or any other indication of the relevant batch then it will not be possible to process the complaint. If a complaint relates to a meal containing ingredients from various sources then it may not be possible to process the complaint to its source.

    The subject of the complaint and the relevant packaging should be kept by the complainant in a suitable container for inspection by the supplier if required as part of the investigation. The item should be clearly labelled "FOOD COMPLAINT- NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION"
  2. Upon receipt of the form at NHS Supply Chain, the complaints are assessed. If the complaint is a contractual issue e.g. delivery problems or quality incidents, then these are referred to the relevant buyer to action. The buyer will report back to the complainant with the results of the investigation.
  3. For any complaints which might compromise food safety, NHS Supply Chain will allocate a unique complaint log number to the incident and record the complaint details with STS. The complainant will be advised by NHS Supply Chain that the complaint has been received and logged for investigation. The unique complaint log number will also be provided to the complainant.
  4. In analysing the incoming complaints STS can identify potential hazards and decide if a product should be withdrawn or not. A decision to hold or withdraw the product will be communicated by NHS Supply Chain to warehouse depots, the supplier and Trust Procurement Managers to cascade to catering personnel. At the conclusion of the investigation a final communication will advise whether the product should be disposed of, returned or that the product is safe to use.
  5. When food is suspected of causing food borne illness or food poisoning, local Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) should also be contacted as soon as possible by the complainant. Where an EHO is involved and wishes to take over the investigation, then STS will not continue to investigate the complaint, but a copy of the outcome should be sent to STS to retain on the suppliers file for audit purposes.
  6. The supplier is required to give an indication of the time that it will take for them to give a response to the complaint. Suppliers are automatically contacted if they have not replied within that time period and will be repeatedly chased by the complaints administrator at STS if an answer is not forthcoming.
    The supplier should be given the opportunity to examine any foreign body, product or packaging to facilitate a full investigation. The decision to release the product lies with the reporting authority. If the product is released the complainant should obtain a full descriptive receipt.
  7. All complaints will be progressed to a final response from the supplier.
  8. The complaints administrator at STS will assess the supplier response(s) and decide if it contains all the required information, or if further information is required. If it is considered to be incomplete then the STS complaints administrator will seek to obtain a full response from the supplier, with the support of the NHS Supply Chain Food Team where required.
  9. Once a full response has been received this will be reviewed by an Environmental Health Officer at STS who will establish that the supplier has taken:
    a) reasonable steps to establish responsibility for the complaint
    b) reasonable steps to identify the cause
    c) appropriate action to prevent a re-occurrence.
    STS will confirm whether the suppliers’ response is satisfactory and whether the complaint can be closed. NHS Supply Chain will be informed of this decision by STS and the outcome – comprising a copy of both the supplier and STS responses - will be sent to the complainant by NHS Supply Chain, referencing the original unique complaint log number. The complainant should notify NHS Supply Chain within 7 days if they are not satisfied with the response.

    The complaint is recorded on both STS and NHS Supply Chain Food team systems.
  10. Until the matter is formally closed no reimbursement or compensation should be considered, as this may jeopardise any legal action that may result. Replacement product may be accepted for any product on hold so that service can be maintained.

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