More interventions over food safety on the cards?
The FSA, following publication of official statistics on food law enforcement by Local Authorities for the previous year, appeared to suggest greater intervention might be on the cards to tackle under performance by food outlets.
The data was, on the whole, positive – revealing an increase in food hygiene compliance in food establishments. 89% met the grade, with only 6% of food premises ranked unsatisfactory.
There was also a decrease in the number of planned interventions for food standards. As this covers areas such as authenticity and food fraud, following the drama of the horsemeat scandal a number of years ago, it is perhaps surprising. Indeed the FSA noted that this decline was “concerning”.
Data revealed a small increase in due food hygiene interventions, covering food safety; up to 85% compared to 84% last year.
A potential negative is the continued fall in staffing levels in teams responsible for enforcement activity. Here a reduction of 2.7% was seen in 2016/2107 compared with the previous year.
Commenting for the FSA, Nina Purcell Director of Regulatory Delivery, said: “It’s encouraging that local authorities are continuing to target their activities at food businesses where food safety risks are the highest or where food fraud is more likely. But the decrease in planned interventions for food standards is concerning and while hygiene interventions are increasing, there remains a 15% shortfall.
“We’re going to use this enforcement data along with other intelligence, to identify and target underperforming local authorities so that we can work with them to secure improvements or tackle any particular problems they may have”
What this means for operators
It remains to be seen whether you can expect a greater intervention by Local Authorities with an increase in inspections and planned interventions. However if the trend of reducing staff continues, it will be a significant challenge to allocate the necessary manpower to such investigations.
Scores on the Doors
Whilst trying to avoid mention of Brexit, the conversion of EU law will impact on many council services, including how to protect customers from being served unsafe food. The Local Government Association has taken the view that all food premises in England should be forced to display their “Scores on the Doors” ratings when EU laws governing food safety are converted into UK law after Brexit. This is to improve hygiene standards and protect people from harm. Council EHO teams currently score food outlets from zero to five based on factors such as kitchen cleanliness, cooking methods and food management and businesses in Wales and Northern Ireland are legally required to display their rating. This is not the case in England, so the LGA wants the Government to see Brexit as an opportunity to strengthen food safety laws and empower councils by legally extending the mandatory display of ratings.
The LGA believes this would not only improve customer confidence and raise standards, but also reduce the need for and cost of enforcement action by councils. This may be an opportunity for Local Authorities to also move themselves off the FSA radar as businesses strive to improve their hygiene ratings and raise level of cleanliness in the kitchens.
Many operators and Council EHO Officers believe that a lack of a hygiene rating sticker should raise alarm bells as it means customers are left in the dark about cleanliness levels – do you display yours?
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