Food safety and nutrition

The safety, quality and nutritional value of the food we eat is of fundamental importance to our health and wellbeing. Food safety and nutrition are therefore key concerns for the environmental health profession.

The CIEH works to ensure the availability of safe and wholesome food for everyone, and to promote the benefits of healthy eating. We do this by:

  • Informing and educating the public
  • Working in partnership with government and stakeholders
  • Encouraging and promoting compliance with food legislation
  • Providing support to food safety professionals
  • Disseminating good practice information
  • Sponsoring research to provide a robust evidence base for health improvement
  • Providing qualifications for staff working in food businesses and for specialist food inspectors 
  • Providng professional education and development for environmental health practitioners

Specifically, we work to promote:

  • The production, transportation, storage, preparation and sale of food in hygienic conditions
  • The provision of food that is free from harmful contaminants
  • Accurate, informative and comprehensive food labelling which can be easily understood by consumers
  • The provision and consumption of healthier foods that are affordable, accessible and locally available
  • Food production and procurement based on principles of sustainability

▼ Diet and nutrition 

Diet and nutrition play a major role in health and disease. It is generally recognised that poor diet and nutrition can lead to ill health and sometimes to premature death. In many countries of the world, including the UK, overweight and obesity are now major public health problems but there are also problems with malnutrition and food poverty.

Various initiatives are underway to try and encourage people to adopt a healthier diet. In England, the last Government’s Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to action on obesity in England document set out how action on obesity would be delivered over the coming years. It outlined the Government’s national ambitions for a downward trend in excess weight in both children and adults by 2020 and set out how, by working together, a wide range of partners would be able to make these ambitions a reality

Another initiative is the NHS Change4Life programme in England and Wales which offers advice and tips on how to lead a healthier lifestyle, including eating well. The Eatwell Guide is often used to show which food types and proportions make up a well-balanced and healthy diet.

Food businesses too can play their part, for example by providing accurate nutrition labelling and or reformulating their products to reduce the levels of salt and sugar. 

Local authorities can use their public health funding to provide healthy living services and create healthier food environments. Examples of actions that can be taken by local authorities to provide healthier food environments are given in the following publications:

Further information on obesity can be found on the following websites:

Public Health England

Public Health Wales

Scottish Government

Northern Ireland Government  

 
▼ Food hygiene rating scheme 

Food poisoning is a serious public health issue, with hundreds of thousands of cases every year in the UK.

The CIEH believes more can be done to reduce this figure and supported the introduction of a national "Scores on Doors" rating scheme which would allow food businesses to display the results of food inspections at their premises, and in addition, display this information on the web. We believe that this scheme gives consumers the information they need to differentiate between premises that follow good procedures and those that do not.

The Food Standards Agency has introduced a national rating scheme, called the Food Hygiene Rating System in England & Wales and the Food Hygiene Information Scheme in Scotland, so that consumers across the UK can obtain information on businesses in their areas.

You can search for business ratings in your area on the FHRS website.

For more information, visit www.food.gov.uk/hygieneratings 

 
▼ Food safety 

Food safety encompasses not only the prevention of gastro-intestinal illnesses caused by bacteria and viruses, but also the avoidance of harm from chemical contamination and the ingestion of unwanted physical contaminants such as glass or metal. Food poisoning can cause serious illness, and some types can lead to permanent disability or even death.

Control of food safety is managed by a series of interventions that apply to all food businesses from production to point of sale. The key government departments and agencies that regulate and advise on national food safety matters in the UK are the Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Department of Health. Much of the legislation governing food safety is set by the European Union. For further information on the legislation, please visit www.food.gov.uk 

Monitoring and enforcement of food safety requirements is carried out at local level by a range of professionally qualified officers. The majority of these are environmental health practitioners (EHPs).

Guide dogs and other animals in food businesses

In the early 1990's, at the request of the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, CIEH provided that organisation with some wording that could be used on a card that blind people could show to food business operators. The card confirmed that CIEH regarded it as exceptional and acceptable (on the grounds of food hygiene) for a properly trained guide dog to be taken into the 'front of house' of food premises by its owner.

Following receipt of a number of enquiries from members of the public concerning whether the CIEH’s guidance could now be extended to cover the presence other types of animals in food premises, the CIEH has raised this matter with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) - the body that has ultimate responsibility for setting food safety standards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The FSA’s response is as follows:

The FSA’s view has always been………….that it is the FBO’s [food business operator] decision whether to allow animals / pets into retail or catering establishments’ front-of-house areas; the food hygiene / food safety laws do not specifically prohibit this.  

The FSA can confirm that as long as food safety is protected, there is nothing in food safety or food hygiene legislation preventing customers taking assistance animals, working animals or pets, into the front-of-house areas of food retailers or catering establishments. Food businesses seeking further advice on how the food safety and food hygiene legislation might apply if customers wish to bring in assistance animals or other pets can contact their local environmental health office for free advice.” 

Upon receipt of this latest response from FSA, The CIEH’s previous guidance on this matter is withdrawn and account should now only be taken of the FSA’s advice, which is given above.

Further information

If you are a food business seeking advice on your food safety responsibilities, you can find basic information on Government’s GOV.UK website. More detailed information can be found on the FSA’s Business and Industry web pages.  Alternatively, please contact your local council environmental health department. To find your local authority please visit the GOV.UK website.

 
▼ Food standards 

Food standards cover issues such as ensuring the accuracy of labelling, descriptions of products and claims made about them, with a view to protecting consumer health. EHPs and trading standards officers are responsible for monitoring food standards, encouraging improvements and enforcing those that are legally binding. Detailed information on food standards is available from the Chartered Trading Standards Institute.

The CIEH is a vocal promoter of improvements in food safety and food standards. Through our own initiatives, and through partnership working with a range of other organisations, we are working to achieve: 

  • Legislation that is clear, risk-based and readily enforceable
  • Proportionate and consistent application of legislative controls
  • Full recognition and support for the role of EHPs in ensuring food safety and standards, both in the public and private sectors
  • Strengthening of regulator, industry and consumer partnerships to improve food safety and standards
  • Full investigation of new approaches and alternative methods to improving food safety and standards
  • Support and training to assist business in attaining and maintaining high levels of food safety and standards
 
▼ Food waste prevention 

Food waste in the hospitality and food service sector

Reducing food waste is a key part of the CIEH food policy and we are committed to working with partners and businesses to prevent food waste across all food business sectors.A report published by WRAP in November 2013 Overview of waste in the UK Hospitality and Food Service (HaFS) sector showed that the UKs hospitality and food service sector is facing an annual bill in excess of £2.5 billion for food waste and the equivalent of 1.3 billion meals are wasted annually (that’s 1 in 6 of the meals served by the HaFS sector).

CIEH is currently working with WRAP to promote a new campaign designed to reduce waste while helping businesses to save money and boost profits. Called ‘Your Business is Food – Don’t Throw it Away‘ the campaign provides participants with simple tools and techniques to track the amount  of food being wasted.  CIEH members can access a feature article on the campaign in the November 2017 edition of Environmental Health News.

The following resources provide further details: Information and guidance for businesses; Food waste recycling website; Cost of food waste infographic.

Support for Environmental Health Professionals

Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) can now access free advice on how to help hospitality and food service businesses tackle food waste by watching these four screencasts. Produced in association with the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and featuring WRAP experts, the screencasts offer a step-by-step guide enabling EHPs to provide businesses with advice on saving money by reducing waste and also signposting them to relevant guidance. The screencasts:

  • give an overview of waste in the hospitality and food service (HaFS) sector;
  • identify food waste prevention opportunities within a business;
  • provide advice to help businesses prevent food waste and realise the associated cost savings; and
  • introduce WRAP’s business support including tools and guidance available under WRAP’s Hospitality and Food Service Agreement.
Food Waste Screencast 1
Introduction
 
  Food Waste Screencast 2
The savings potential
 
     
Food Waste Screencast 3
Good Practice
 
  Food Waste Screencast 4
Putting it into Practice
 

Information for Students

CIEH and WRAP are committed to helping students understand the information and messages highlighted in the food waste prevention workshops that have been offered to operational EHPs. This briefing outlines the challenge and it also provides students the opportunity to learn more about effective food and packaging prevention and management in business. 

Wrap Resources

Preventing Food Waste screencast information

 
▼ Regulating our Future 

The FSA’s Regulating our Future (RoF) programme is intended to deliver a completely new regulatory system for food within the UK. The aim is to create a modern, risk-based, proportionate, robust and resilient regulatory food control system by 2020. All aspects of food regulation – food safety, food standards and feed – are within the scope of the RoF programme.

An overview of the RoF programme was published by FSA in July 2017.

Regulating our Future. Why food regulation needs to change and how we are going to do it. 

The programme will be delivered in two phases – before 2019 and after Brexit.

CIEH acknowledges that the UK has some of the safest food in the world and, while we accept that there is room for improvement, we are not convinced at this stage that the FSA has put forward a sufficiently compelling, evidence-based case of the need for transformational change. Further information on our views can be found in our November 2017 briefing paper on RoF.

Regulating our Future (RoF) – CIEH Briefing Paper. November 2017 

 
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