The number of food scares with the potential to cause serious injury or death grew by almost 50% in 2007.

A new report from the Food Standards Agency recorded 16 high-risk incidents in 2007, including outbreaks of avian flu and foot and mouth disease. This was a steep increase on the previous year, when just 11 such incidents were recorded.

The FSA said the increased number was due to more effective policing and better engagement with stakeholders.

"While the food on sale in the UK is safer than it has ever been, we remain vigilant and respond quickly and firmly to protect consumers when incidents do occur," said Andrew Wadge, the FSA's chief scientist and director of food safety.

Overall food incidents fell marginally to 1,312 in 2007, from 1,344 the previous year.