Hygiene legislation for primary producers

Last updated:
27 October 2006
Your questions answered on how hygiene legislation affects you.
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Who is affected by the food hygiene regulations?

The EU Food Hygiene Regulations, in force since 1 January 2006, extended the 'farm to fork' approach to food safety legislation and apply to food businesses throughout the supply chain. This now includes farmers and growers, in many cases for the first time.

A link to general information on the food hygiene legislation can be found below.

A leaflet about food and feed hygiene on farms is available – please note that it reflects the situation before 1 January 2006, but still contains much useful information.

Will this mean more inspections for farmers? If so, who will be making the inspections?

The UK is obliged to undertake inspections to ensure that food hygiene legislation is being complied with. However, the opportunity was taken to develop an inspection regime based on the principles of better regulation and commensurate with the nature of the industry.

Other than in dairy and egg hygiene, where existing enforcement arrangements continue, a common approach to inspections has been adopted across the UK. However, differing enforcement bodies have been selected to conduct this work in each country reflecting differences in terms of the responsibilities and experience of the enforcers and the nature of farming activity. Those bodies are:

  • in England and Wales, local authorities
  • in Scotland, a combination of local authorities and the Scottish Executive Environment and Rural Affairs Department (SEERAD)
  • in Northern Ireland, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD)

The enforcement arrangements have been in place since 1 December 2006 and some farmers and growers may already have been inspected.

What do farmers have to do?

Where they are not subject to more specific hygiene requirements (that is, for milk and egg production), farmers and growers need to follow good hygiene practice and manage their operations in a way that controls food safety problems (or 'hazards'.) They must continue to comply with other legislation, for example on veterinary medicines and pesticides. Primary producers are not required to have a HACCP system.

Primary producers must also be registered with the competent authority. The registration burden has been reduced by utilising existing forms of farm registration (e.g. the records of DEFRA and its agencies or the equivalents in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland). If farmers are not registered with an Agricultural Department they should contact the relevant body (detailed above.)

Is guidance available for farmers?

Information both for farmers and enforcers was issued as part of the consultation on the proposed enforcement arrangements. This included a table which comprehensively set out the hazards within the various sectors at primary production level.

What approach will inspectors take?

Inspection frequencies will be risk based and make full use of available evidence from a variety of sources. Membership of a recognised farm assurance scheme will be used as positive evidence, resulting in less frequent inspections. Recognised schemes are considered to meet the requirements of the legislation in a clear and credible way; for example, scheme members will already undergo regular inspections by the certifying body used by the scheme.

Recognition was given to the fact that farm inspections for food hygiene purposes are new. Unlike elsewhere in the food chain, there was little previous experience to draw on and it is understood that the first 12 months of the regime will be a learning process both for industry and enforcers.

It was stressed that those undertaking inspections should initially take an educative approach.

Experience and evidence gathered within the first 12 months of the regime’s operation will be used to keep the initial arrangements under review.

Who has put the inspection procedures together?

Who has put the inspection procedures together?

To achieve a consistent enforcement approach, a UK-wide Technical Group comprising representatives of industry, enforcers and Agency officials was established.

The group developed the initial details of the regime and will continue to meet as necessary to help refine proposals and to provide advice on how best to communicate with the industry and enforcement community.

Who's responsible for inspecting business activities on farms that are not primary production (e.g. B&Bs, farm shops)?

It is left to local authorities to determine which of their authorised officers should undertake this work. However, it should be borne in mind that such activities may carry inspection frequencies other than those suggested for primary production.

What training have enforcers had?

Training events have been held for enforcers throughout the UK.

In all training, emphasis was placed upon the innovative approach adopted, making best use of available evidence, such as membership of a recognised farm assurance scheme.

When awarding the food hygiene inspection work to the bodies concerned, it was envisaged that burdens to both industry and enforcers would be reduced by combining the work with existing inspections, in particular those relating to animal welfare and feed legislation. The training focus was food related but it was stressed from the outset that, wherever possible, inspections should be a ‘bolt on’ to farm inspections already being made.

Will farmers be given prior notice of inspections?

The Agency recognises that the seasonal nature of primary production and the fact that farmers are not always at the farm premises means prior notification of inspections is preferable. This approach has been encouraged in the training to enforcers. Ultimately however, this is a decision for the enforcement body.

What about farmers who are members of assurance schemes?

Membership of, and performance as part of, a recognised farm assurance scheme will provide relevant evidence where the conditions of the scheme address the requirements of the legislation in a credible and transparent way.

In order to facilitate this approach, Assured Food Standards (the body overseeing the administration of many of the farm assurance schemes in the UK) has agreed to supply details of current scheme membership to the inspection bodies.

What schemes have been recognised?

The following assurance schemes have been evaluated against the requirements of the hygiene legislation and are currently considered to meet those requirements. They also cooperate in a Memorandum of Understanding between Assured Food Standards and LACoRS (the body representing local authorities in England and Wales) and extended to include enforcement bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which enables information exchange:

  • Assured British Meat (ABM )
  • Assured British Pigs (ABP)
  • Assured Chicken Production (ACP)
  • Assured Combinable Crops Scheme (ACCS)
  • Assured Produce (AP)
  • Genesis Quality Assurance (GQA)
  • Quality Meat Scotland (QMS)
  • Farm Assured Welsh Livestock (FAWL)
  • Northern Ireland Beef/Lamb Farm Quality Assured Scheme (NIBLFQAS)

Scottish Quality Cereals (SQC) has also been assessed as meeting the requirements of the legislation and an information exchange mechanism developed with the FSA Scotland.

Subject to the views received in the consultation exercise it is proposed that the above list of schemes may be extended as appropriate.

A document, Assessment of certain UK Farm Assurance schemes against the requirements of the EC Food Hygiene Legislation has been published. This gives further details.

Will the legislation apply consistently across the EU?

The hygiene regulations apply to farms across al European Union Member States. Corresponding and consistent enforcement is also required of Member States. Primary produce imported into the EU from third countries must also meet EU hygiene rules.

Where can primary producers get further advice about the food hygiene legislation?

England
Carol Gardner
tel: 020 7276 8930
email: [email protected]

Scotland
Bill Adamson
tel: 01224 285137
email: [email protected]

Wales
Mike Pender
tel: 02920 678904
email: [email protected]

Northern Ireland
Gerard Smyth
tel: 028 9041 7760
email: [email protected]

Kirsten Dunbar
tel: 028 9041 7717
email: [email protected]

How does the legislation affect the production and use of animal feed?

The EC Feed Hygiene Regulation (183/2005) aims at ensuring that EC controls on safety are strengthened and applied throughout the animal feed chain.

It applies to virtually all feed businesses that make, use or market animal feed, including most livestock farms and arable farms that grow or sell crops for feed businesses. The Feed Hygiene Regulation requires farmers to comply with general hygiene standards in relation to the feeds they produce or use.
Most farms will need to comply with the relevant requirement by 1 January 2008. However, farms that mix feeds containing additives (such as vitamins and trace elements) have been subject to the controls set out in the regulation since 1999.

A code on feeding food-producing animals, which livestock farmers must follow, is set out in Annex III of the Feed Hygiene Regulation.

Contacts for feed hygiene legislation:

England
Ned Mazhar
tel: 020 7276 8609
email: [email protected]

Scotland
Alison Taylor
tel: 01224 285174
email: [email protected]

Wales
Mike Pender
tel: 02920 678904
email: [email protected]

Northern Ireland
Gerard Smyth
tel: 028 9041 7760
email: [email protected]

Kirsten Dunbar
tel: 028 9041 7717
email: [email protected]