CIEH shares its views on proposed changes to Food Law Code of Practice in England and Northern Ireland

12 January 2023, Ciaran Donaghy

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has recently submitted our response to a recent Food Standards Agency (FSA) consultation on the proposed changes to the Food Law Code of Practice in both England and Northern Ireland

In October, the FSA opened a 12-week consultation on their proposed changes to the Food Law Code of Practice in England and Northern Ireland which would implement a new food standards delivery model. 

The proposed changes to the code are intended to enable local authorities to:

  • reduce the number of harmful or non-compliant products on the market 
  • more effectively target available resources to the areas of greatest risk within the supply chain
  • have greater flexibility to determine the appropriate official control method(s) and technique(s) to use depending on the risk posed by a food business

To do so, the Food Standards Agency’s changes centre around two key proposals. Firstly, the introduction of a New Food Standards Intervention Rating Scheme aims at assessing a Food Business Operator’s (FBO's) ‘inherent risk profile’ and ‘compliance assessment’ which then determines that FBO’s risk profile. Secondly, the introduction of a Decision Matrix which assesses the frequency with which official controls are carried out based on the average scores of an FBO’s ‘inherent risk profile’ and ‘compliance assessment’

The overarching goal of the proposed changes is to afford local authorities greater flexibility to be able to direct their increasingly limited resources more proportionately to the highest-risk FBOs. However, in response to the proposed changes, CIEH in conjunction with our expert members on the Food Advisory Panel, raised several concerns. Namely, that the proposed changes do not address the issue of dwindling resources which is the main issue facing local authorities. Furthermore, requiring interventions 28 days after identifying high-risk FBOs will place considerable resource pressures on local authorities, and that a high number of initial inspections will need to be conducted following implementation of the Code which will also place significant pressure on local authorities.

Conversely, CIEH is also concerned that requiring too infrequent inspections of lower-risk FBOs may result in no inspections being conducted at all. Finally, CIEH is perhaps most concerned that some of the proposed changes were not included in the pilot scheme which involved several local authorities across England and Northern Ireland, therefore the impact on resources was incapable of being measured. 

Overall, CIEH appreciates the intended spirit of the reform proposals, which were designed to afford local authorities more flexibility in for local authorities in attempting to strike the balance between resource allocation and ensuring adequate inspection of high-risk FBOs. CIEH look forward to receiving the FSA’s response to the concerns we have laid out in our consultation response. CIEH and our members also look forward to working closely and maintaining open dialogue with the FSA as these proposed changes are rolled out. 

Ciaran Donaghy, Senior Policy and Public Affairs Executive at CIEH, said:

“CIEH, in collaboration with our panel of experts on our Food Advisory Panel, was delighted to be able to share our views on the proposed changes to the Food Law Code of Practice in England and Northern Ireland.

While we agree with the intention of the changes, insofar as they aim to afford local authorities greater flexibility in how they allocate their resources while also managing risk and maintaining the high food standards we enjoy in the UK. We have, however, raised several concerns regarding the proposed changes and hope the FSA take these under consideration. 

Our members are at the front line in ensuring high food standards are maintained but are being asked to do so with ever-decreasing resources. These proposals may have the unintended consequence of increasing resource pressures on local authorities, placing them under even greater pressure. We look forward to the FSA’s response to our concerns and look to work closely with them in delivering upon their reform programme in a way which alleviates the concerns of our members.”

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