CIEH has expressed concern at the growing number of home food businesses that have sprung up during the Covid lockdown.
Often selling through social media and other informal networks and apps, many are not registering as food businesses, meaning local authorities cannot check hygiene and food standards.
The Covid pandemic has already put local authority, and environmental health teams, under considerable strain with resources close to breaking point. As such, Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) are having to focus on those businesses that pose the greatest risk.
New figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and data from an online registration system used by nearly 200 local authorities, show that around 44% of food businesses started since the first lockdown are home-based.
Uninspected food businesses can be a real risk to public health and cause complications for local authorities at a time of national crisis.
Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) have been at the forefront of efforts to keep our communities safe throughout this pandemic, working hand in hand with businesses to help them become Covid-secure and supporting test and trace efforts.
Julie Barratt, CIEH President, said:
“Covid isn't the only thing that kills people, so do food poisoning and so do allergens.
Many of these new food businesses are small producers with limited reach. They won’t cause big outbreaks of food poisoning, but there is every chance that they are making people ill. Just because people may not be reporting food-related illness to their GPs due to the pandemic does not mean it isn’t happening.
It's not just about catering, it's about how food is packed, labelled, and transported. It is considering the whole of the food chain. Adding uninspected food outlets to this network poses real risks.
However, we don't want to discourage businesses, we want to work with them to get it right first time. The best way for that to happen is if new businesses register with their local authorities and talk to their environmental health teams before opening. That way they can open with confidence and peace of mind that they are supporting their local communities, not harming them.”