Scientist carrying out food inspection in lab

CIEH warns of need for extra EH resources to ensure food safety

FSA report reveals over 50,000 food business operators not yet inspected
09 February 2023 , by Steve Smethurst

CIEH “concerned” over levels of funding and resource for local authorities’ EH teams, as high-risk FBO’s continue to operate

The latest Food Standards Agency (FSA) report, published in January 2023, shows that more than 50,000 food business operators (FBO's) were still awaiting inspection as of March 2022. The number had only fallen by around 10,000 compared with March 2021.
Tackling this will require significant added resources for local authorities, warned Ciaran Donaghy, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Executive, CIEH.
 “Environmental Health teams were integral in combatting the spread of Covid-19, with more than 50% of local authority professional technical resource being diverted or redeployed.
“However, this has resulted in a backlog that places a huge burden on local authority food safety teams that are overworked and under-resourced.”
Susan Jebb, FSA Chair acknowledged the work to manage the impact of Covid-19 and EU exit. She also admitted that despite signs of recovery local authorities were still struggling and “will continue to face constraints that could affect local food teams”.
Emily Miles, Chief Executive, FSA said: “Our Local Authority Recovery Plan was implemented in summer 2021 to help local authorities get back on track. It was designed to achieve a return to pre-pandemic levels of activity and clear the backlog of food inspections by April 2023. All three countries are showing signs of recovery, although the pace differs geographically.”
Sam Bacon, Food, Health and Safety Manager at Hull City Council told EHN Extra that the number of new premises registrations being received on a weekly basis is adding to the pressures on Hull’s food safety team as they try to achieve the FSA’s Recovery Plan.
“We aren’t yet in a position to inspect all new businesses within 28 days, but we are triaging them and prioritising inspections based on risk, using the questionnaire provided by the FSA. Triaging and inspection of new businesses takes our limited resource away from the programmed inspections, so it is frustrating when new businesses are found to have ceased trading or in some cases never started trading, this is a common occurrence.”
Bacon said that triaging unrated businesses has been a success but that achieving a substantial reduction in the number of unrated food premises within the authority has taken a ‘significant effort’ from everyone within the team.
“We know there is still a lot of hard work to be done but we can take a moment to hold our heads high,” he said.
“Without addressing [levels of funding and resource], the proposed changes merely tinker with the edges while high-risk FBO's slip through the cracks.”
Donaghy added that CIEH appreciated the intention behind proposed reforms to the Food Law Code of Practice, designed to give local authorities greater ability to direct their limited resources to the highest risk FBO's, but said it wasn’t without risks.
He said: “We remain concerned about levels of funding and resource for local authorities’ environmental health teams. Without addressing this core issue, the proposed changes merely tinker with the edges while high-risk FBO's slip through the cracks.”
CIEH is also supporting calls to make the Food Hygiene Rating System (FHRS) mandatory in England, which currently has the lowest percentage of food businesses with a rating of three or above.


Image credit: Shutterstock


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