Tag Archives: Food Standards Agency

An exciting few weeks at the Food Standards Agency

It has been an exciting few weeks at the Food Standards Agency:

Open by default

On 28th January our board set us on an open by default path https://president.com/zbzdczunpvsu/a-data-driven-fsa.

Future of food regulation

The following week there was a public event about the future of food regulation (see https://storify.com/drsiant/the-future-of-food-regulation,  and we published our principles https://registration.livegroup.co.uk/regulating-the-future/content tabs/?ctid=824.

Open Data Camp

We are pleased to be supporting Open Data Camp 3 in May.

Open Data Camp 3 teaser

Purpose of this blog

A call for help linking these three distinct themes. There could be a key role for Open Data in the future of food regulation. There are many facets of this and we are keen to get people to help us develop some ideas.

As is customary, I will be at (and again involved with organising) Open Data Camp – but this time I am reaching out to the community to do some thinking before the event.

Share some ideas: from crowdsourcing to data standards – we need your help to explore the possibilities. After all, we all have to eat at least a few times every day.

Food, hygiene and the open data challenge

Warning: Liveblogging – prone to error, inaccuracy, and howling affronts to grammar. This post will be improved over the course of a few days.

ODCamp 21-02-15_14_Food_Standards_Agen

Hosted by Dr Sian Thomas, Food Standards Agency

The Food Standards Agency has a big commitment to open data – but is honest that it’s not always in a useful format. Dr Thomas asked for suggestions for improving that, and the room had plenty of ideas…

The more ways of accessing the data, the better was the message: RSS, CSVs, APIs, etc. Tab separated data is “old fashioned” – but pretty easy to deal with. However, she’s only got a team of four, and is responsible for a lot more than open data (like date protection, FoI, and so on…). They’re dependent on other data-collecting organisations opening up what they do.

Supply chain open data could be a really interesting perspective, especially for the rural part of the economy. DEFRA has a lot of open data on that. But once it enters the supply chain it becomes commercial data, and no-one releases that. Some supermarkets release some data, but far from all, and in theory you can do more down the packaging chain. By law you need to know one step above and one step below – who you bought it from and who you sell it to. It’s not a standard format, though. Also, food is traded as a commodity, so it often changes had without physically moving. That said, DEFRA is right at the top of the list of bodies that release data.

Data quality: how do authorities describe supermarket canteens? As the company it’s in – or the contract catering company actually running it. There is a standards quality programme – but there are cultural factors that come into play. For example, in a more affluent area the forms of food consumed might be inherently more risky – rare meat and chicken liver paté. They notice the quality issues most in Wales, where there’s mandatory scores on the doors of the rating, and that’s changed things.

The App Gap

There are lots of apps around some of this data – but they never seem to get past competition wins into existence, or at least into consumers’ hands. Maybe they should approach people like Yelp and TripAdvisor? It’s been mooted before. There’s strong correlation between their scores and food hygiene ratings. Maybe they could be used as a trigger for reinspection?

Could food hygiene data enrich open street maps? Sure. Pub data to highlight pubs they don’t have marked right now, or warning signs for dodgy takeaways. But address data is a problem – what do you do about hospital sites, with multiple outlets on a postcode, or a great restaurant next to that dodgy takeaway.

Updates are a problem too – we’re only getting an annual snapshot of more rapidly updated date. Could we get an RSS feed of changes, for example? Parsing the existing XML can be tricky. In Belfast people use backslashes in range addresses that breaks a lot of operations.

Accounting for allergies

Food contamination alerts for allergies need more work. They’d really like to take the RSS feed of allergy updates, and make them filterable by specific allergy, but they’re not allowed to invest in that kind of service. Could you relate that to barcode scanning? Yup, in theory. That would allow some apps to check for the update.

Allergies are a complex area – we have undiagnosed people, we have inaccurately self-diagnosed people, and not comprehensive picture of what foods are creating the biggest issues. There are some files available on the Food & You section of gov.uk, and generally decent figures on the diagnosed people.

Food poisoning outbreaks are hard to pinpoint quickly – unless it can be identified via social media. For example, an outbreak via a curry festival was identified by social media before the labs managed to do so.

Food data to go

interactive-data-hr

We know from past hackathon events that the attendees are a talented hive of production and we want to help you to make more honey. At the Food Standards Agency, we have a healthy appetite for openness. This is because we’re an independent government department with no specific minister. It means openness and transparency are in our DNA.

We publish open data about food.

So let’s cook

We’re excited to be part of the Open Data Camp and have a series of digital offerings to serve up. If you’re into making stuff, we’re keen for you bring your experience to the table and use our data to make a new innovative application and that can include social media.

Below are details of our main datasets and some examples of where to find existing applications. These might inspire you.

Do let us know how you get on @foodgov and use #opendata. Our @drsiant will be at the event and me, @davidberrecloth, via Twitter.

  1. UK food hygiene ratings API (JSON and XML format)

 

fhrs5

About the geo-coded data

The food hygiene ratings given to restaurants, pubs, cafés, takeaways, hotels and other places consumers eat, as well as supermarkets and other food shops. A food business’s rating reflects the standards of food hygiene found on the date of inspection or visit by the local authority.

Get data

Our API 2.0, which includes calls to the server, can query and return data (not the whole dataset though):

http://api.ratings.food.gov.uk/help

A more basic API as well as static XML files by local authority:

http://ratings.food.gov.uk/open-data/en-GB

Consumers can search for ratings at:

www.food.gov.uk/ratings

Examples

There are a number of app outlets offering hygiene rating apps based on our data – have a search of Apple, Android, Windows, BlackBerry, for example. Also, there are a number of websites. Search for ‘food hygiene ratings’ to find these. Can you think of a potential social media application? For example, a Facebook check-in at a restaurant displays the restaurant’s rating on a map?

  1. Allergy alerts and food alerts (RSS feed)

allergy alert

About allergy alerts

Peanuts, egg, milk, fish are some of the 14 major allergens and when allergy labelling is incorrect on a food product, or if there’s another food allergy risk, the food product has to be withdrawn from sale or recalled to protect consumers. Food allergic reactions range from mild to very serious. Most people are not allergic to all 14 allergens and we know affected individuals would benefit enormously if they could get alerts for the allergen that they are affected by, straight to their preferred social media feed.

Get allergy alerts

www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/allergynews-rss

About food alerts

If there’s a problem with a food product (such as it contains pieces of metal or a nasty food bug) then that means it should not be sold and might be withdrawn (taken off the shelves) or recalled (customers are asked to return the product for a refund).

Get food alerts

www.food.gov.uk/foodalerts-rss

  1. Audit of meat establishments (CSV format)

About the data

Slaughterhouses (abattoirs), meat cutting plants and wild game handling establishments are audited by us to make sure that they are:

  •         complying with food law requirements
  •         meeting relevant standards in relation to public health and, in slaughterhouses, animal health and welfare

More information at www.food.gov.uk/business-industry/meat/audit

Get data

www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/csv/fbo-audits-completed-on-after-november-2012.csv

Example

Search web for ‘meat audit app’.

  1. UK local authority enforcement data (CSV format)

About the data

If something goes wrong or the risks become too high, local authorities can take enforcement action against a food business – closure, seizure of food, a simple caution, or a prosecution, for example. Data showing food law enforcement action taken is available in CSV format for the past four years up to 2013/14.

Get it

www.food.gov.uk/enforcement/monitoring/laems/mondatabyyear/

  1. Food and You survey

food and you

About data

This consumer survey is used to collect information about reported behaviours, attitudes and knowledge relating to food issues. It provides data on people’s reported food purchasing, storage, preparation, consumption and factors that may affect these, such as eating habits, influences on where respondents choose to eat out and experiences of food poisoning

Get data and user guide

www.food.gov.uk/food-and-you

www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/csv/2014-food-and-you-survey.csv

www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/food-and-you-csv-data-user-guide_0.xls

Example

It can be used for marketing to target food messages to the right groups through the relevant channel.

Keep connected

Join the conversation at @foodgov using #opendata

Be our Facebook community food.gov.uk/facebook

Watch our videos food.gov.uk/youtube

Get our news by RSS food.gov.uk/rss

Get our news by email food.gov.uk/email

Enjoy the weekend guys!

If you open stuff up, good stuff happens

This is a slightly edited version of a post originally published on DATA.GOV.UK

I rather like the phrase: “Engineering Serendipity” which – as I choose to interpret it – means something like ‘creating conditions which maximise the chances of good stuff happening’. If you’re interested in a fuller discussion of Engineering Serendipity, there’s the excellent article written by Greg Lindsay over on Aspen Ideas.

I’ll come back to engineering serendipity a bit later. Please bear with me in the meantime, however, as I veer off-course to talk briefly about TV chefs.

Don’t watch, just cook

I love good food, and also enjoy cooking, but I never watch cookery programmes on television. I totally ‘get’ why people find the genre entertaining and informative, it just doesn’t do-it for me personally. My view is: if I have enough time to watch someone else cooking, then I might as well spend the time preparing a meal.

TV Chefery

When I say I “never” watch cookery programmes, it isn’t strictly true – I did watch some TV chefery a couple of weeks ago, as an episode of the “Hairy Bikers” was on in the background during a family get-together. In this particular episode – filmed in Bangkok during a recent tour of Asia – the Hairy Bikers were seeking the perfect recipe for Thai Green Curry.

Big break

They visited Aunty Daeng, a self-taught cook with an international reputation. Apparently, Aunty’s big break came when she prepared a meal for a royal visit to the government department where she was working at the time. The royals were so impressed, they invited her to become their private chef.  Had the royals not had the opportunity to taste Aunty Daeng’s food, she might still be working in a government department.

For all I know, Aunty Daeng’s old job may have been hugely worthwhile, and I’m not knocking working in a government department. My point is that a set of circumstances were created which led to Aunty Daeng’s career taking off.

What’s this got to do with Open Data?

I’m glad you asked.

Several times recently, I’ve noticed a combination of ‘chance’ and open data leading to good things that weren’t anticipated by the publishers of the data. Here are a few examples:

Blue Lights and severe weather events

BluelightCamp is a free annual unconference and open data hack which brings together people with some sort of interest in emergency services. In previous years, BlueLightCamp has been linked with British APCO’s annual exhibition in Manchester, and in 2013 we introduced an open data hack element.

In 2014 we held BluelightCamp in Hampshire instead, which meant that, for the first time, BlueLightCamp ‘met’ Hampshire Hub. This led to the birth of a new initiative: WUDOWUD. I won’t go into the detail here, as there’s an article about it on British APCO’s web site, co-written with Chris Cooper of Know Now Information.

Food, pubs and bus stops

food hygiene pubs tweetLast November, we held the latest in a series of ‘Informing Hampshire’ events which are pitched at (mostly) people who help inform public service decision-making in-and-around Hampshire.

One of the presenters was Chris Gutteridge from the University of Southampton who mentioned during his presentation that he’d taken Food Hygiene Certificates open data (published by the Food Standards Agency), together with Public Transport open data, and presented it (along with lots of other useful stuff) on a map for students and staff.

That could be handy for anyone looking for a pub which serves food, and is near to a bus stop (for the correct bus to get home again later). From a public safety perspective, people finding decent pubs with good public transport links are probably less likely to be tempted to drink-and-drive. From a bus company perspective, that’s more bums on seats. From an open data publisher’s perspective, it’s positive proof that it’s worthwhile releasing useful data like Food Hygiene ratings, as they’re actually being used.

University of Southampton open data map screenshot

 

Open data up in the air

st-catherinesIn 2014 we released aerial photography for the whole of the county of Hampshire. This includes high resolution imagery, together with height data, near infrared, and the routes flown.

As we were focusing on introducing the new Hampshire Hub, we didn’t have time or resources to provide a delivery mechanism for the aerial photography as a separate project, so we just made the data available under the Open Government Licence (OGL).

A couple of months ago we were approached out of the blue by the Geodata team at the University of Southampton who have obtained funding to create an online portal to let users explore and download 3D representations of the aerial open data. Geodata have obtained funding to do the development at no cost to the Hampshire Hub, and will make their site available to the public for free. In the words of Jason Sadler who leads the Geodata team: “If you open stuff up, good stuff happens.”

A fair wind

wind map screenshotThe next example isn’t Hampshire-specific, it’s global. I first heard about it during a presentation given at The Graphical Web, an event run by Alan Smith, who leads the Data Visualisation team at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). If you haven’t seen The Graphical Web before, I heartily recommend it, and all of the presentations were recorded and are available through the site.

Cameron Beccario gave a talk about The Wind Map: a ‘visualization of global weather conditions forecast by supercomputers updated every three hours’. Actually, it’s not ‘just’ that, and amongst other things includes ocean temperatures and waves, regularly updated. It’s a superb undertaking, and is the result of many hundreds of hours of effort.

The Wind Map is an excellent example of really good stuff happening when data is opened up. It wouldn’t have been possible had the data not been made freely available by the U.S. National Weather Service and others.

Open Data Camp – Engineering Serendipity

Ok, I confess, there’s a sub-plot here. Part of the reason for writing this post is to plug an event I’m co-organising. It’s Open Data Camp, which is in Winchester on the 21-22nd February 2015. Yes, that’s a weekend.

As far as I’m aware, it’s a UK-first, combining the ‘unconference’ format with a theme of open data. There will also be opportunities to ‘make stuff’ with open data over the weekend.

Tickets are being released in batches through Eventbrite. You’ll have to be quick, though, as they’re going fast.

Thank you sponsors

The organisers* are really grateful to Hampshire County Council for letting us use their fabulous HQ venue free of charge, and Matthew Buck of Drawnalism who donated the artwork and branding we’re using for the event.

Several others have offered their support and we’re following-up on the detail. We still seeking additional sponsors to help make the event go with a bang, so if you’re interested, please get in touch.

It’s a kinda magic

I’m convinced magic will take place at Open Data Camp, just like it does at other unconferences like UKGovCamp. Open Data Camp is open to the public, is free to attend, and spans all sectors. I’m hoping that new initiatives, ideas and collaborations will ‘pop-out’ from Open Data Camp – even though I’ve no idea what they might be. As event organisers we’re just trying to create the conditions which maximise the chances of good stuff happening.

Notes

* There are a bunch of people on the organising team for Open Data Camp, ranging from as far North as Manchester, and as far south as Devon: