The Food Standards Agency has issued guidance to local authorities to support them during the COVID-19 crisis.
On Friday (20 March) the FSA said it was suspending collection of Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System (LAEMS) returns for 2019/20 to allow authorities to focus on pandemic activities, though they will be required “in due course”.
Some local authorities had raised concerns that they would not be able to complete their 2019/20 planned interventions programmes.
Many local authorities have already cut routine inspections and are only carrying out emergency or reactive work. The FSA has supported the move, adding that this will allow EHPs to potentially divert resources to public health pandemic work and will reduce footfall in feed/food businesses.
FSA said it wanted local authorities to focus resources on “urgent reactive work to address potentially serious public health risks relating to feed/food”.
“This includes, for example, following up on feed or food incidents and outbreak investigations. Wherever possible, initial actions should be undertaken remotely through telephone discussion. This will inform the need for onsite visits.”
All the authorities Extra spoke to have already been diverting resources and taking a risk-based approach. Some with a high number of existing takeaway deliveries, or switchover to deliveries, have been advising these businesses.
The FSA's head of regulatory compliance, Michael Jackson, said: “I want to acknowledge the response from our local authority colleagues to date in dealing with this unprecedented emergency and to thank you sincerely for the work that you are doing to protect public health.”
Kate Thompson, CIEH Director for Wales, said: “Local authorities are facing unprecedented pressures. EHPs across the country will now, more than ever be called on to adopt a risk-based approach to protecting public health. This is what they have been trained to do. This guidance from the FSA is welcomed but we are aware from officers working on the front line that the FSA has been slow to respond when they have sought guidance on specific matters.”
A previous letter also suspended the FSA’s allergen campaign that was due to launch on 16 March.