The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is due to launch a consultation on changes to the food law code of practice in England and Northern Ireland that could allow more officers to undertake food official controls.
Currently the code restricts who can carry out these controls but there is a proposal to allow a wider cohort of EH and trading standards professionals to do this work.
Also under consideration is a new competency framework that will define competency by activity as opposed to taking a profession-based approach.
Kate Thompson, CIEH director for Wales, urged members to share their opinions on the proposed changes. She said: “We are keen to hear members’ views and will be hosting an interactive webinar on 18 November to inform our response to the consultation. A panel of experts will outline the proposals and discuss likely impacts”.
A source told EHN Extra that Public Protection Wales (PPW) wrote last month to FSA in Wales, urging it to postpone any consultation in the devolved nation. CIEH was told earlier this week by the FSA that it would not be consulting on the proposals in Wales yet.
PPW urged for a postponement in Wales as officer workloads have dramatically increased and there would not be “adequate time” for "meaningful" consultation.
It advised the FSA that EH, trading standards and licencing teams in Wales are already on the front line in the pandemic response and are involved across a host of activities including contact tracing; COVID regs enforcement; advising businesses; supporting schools, care homes, and other settings with infection controls; investigating clusters of cases; testing; and more.
The letter noted the looming EU exit, which presented “even more ambiguity” on top of the current COVID challenges.
The letter advised: “In these unprecedented times we are facing unprecedented demands on our scarce specialist resources.
“PPW believe any changes to the competency framework, or the code for that matter, should only be done on the basis that they will not undermine food safety and we would very much wish to be involved.
“However, at this time of national crisis, when the public protection workforce in Wales is focused on responding to the coronavirus pandemic, it is impossible to give this matter the full attention that it requires.”
The FSA is running a webinar on the proposals on 19 November and CIEH members are urged to take part.
EDIT: the consultation launched on 13 November, and Michael Jackson, head of regulatory compliance at the FSA gave the following comment to EHN Extra.
Jackson said: "We are very conscious of the enormous pressures faced by local authorities at this present time and we are hugely grateful for their work to help ensure that consumers are protected.
"The purpose of this consultation, which we are launching today in England and Northern Ireland, is to seek views on proposed changes which are critical in helping local authorities to recruit more staff to manage the increased workload responding to COVID-19 and following the end of the transition period.
"We know this is not an ideal time to ask for LAs views but these proposed changes should make it easier to attract and recruit greater numbers of people at this critical time. We are holding a webinar on the 19 November to make it easier for EHPs to register their thoughts and opinions.
"In addition, the FSA in Wales is going out to consult in the coming months and has been working closely with both local authority representatives and DPP to take account of the concerns they’ve raised about their ability to respond as a result of pressures they are facing in these unprecedented times."