The audit examined Wrexham County Borough Council’s arrangements for the delivery of official food controls. This included reality checks at food establishments to assess the effectiveness of official controls and more specifically, the checks carried out by the authority’s officers, to verify food business operator (FBO) compliance with legislative requirements. The scope of the audit also included an assessment of the authority’s overall organization and management, and the internal monitoring of food law enforcement activities.
The Head of Environment and Planning had overall responsibility for the delivery of food hygiene and food standards services within Public Protection Department. Day to day management was the responsibility of the Lead Food Officer & the Principal Trading Standards Manager.
The authority had well established service planning arrangements in place together with systems for reviewing performance. Service planning documents contained some but not all the information set out in the Service Planning Guidance in the Framework Agreement including the requirements to plan work in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice and to estimate the resources required to deliver the services.
Arrangements were in place to ensure effective service delivery by appropriately authorised, competent officers who had been authorised in accordance with their qualifications, training and experience. Capacity issues had been identified and the authority would benefit from ensuring a sufficient number of authorised officers are appointed to deliver the work detailed within the service plan and in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice.
The authority had systems in place to ensure business continuity and minimise damage by preventing or reducing the impact of security incidents. Audit checks confirmed that both the food hygiene and food standards database was accurate and the authority had been able to provide electronic Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System (LAEMS) returns.
Record and database checks confirmed that both food hygiene and food standards services had prioritised inspections of higher-risk businesses and approved establishments whilst some establishments, mostly lower risk, were not being inspected at the frequencies required by the Food Law Code of Practice and centrally issued guidance.
Inspection records demonstrated that a thorough assessment of business compliance had taken place during most food hygiene inspections and for high risk food standards where updated inspection forms were in use. However, in some cases, including medium and low-risk food standards inspections and for some aspects of food hygiene inspection; insufficient information was available in some aspects of intervention records to demonstrate that a thorough assessment had been undertaken by officers in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice. In general, risk rating, revisits and follow up action was being carried out as required for both food hygiene and food standards interventions; with occasional exceptions.
In general, food hygiene inspection records and reports were being adequately maintained by the authority with only minor omissions. Food standards reports would benefit from a review to ensure that they contain all the information required by the Food Law Code of Practice.
Food and food establishment complaints, food sampling interventions, food incidents and notifications of high risk food related infectious disease had generally taken place in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice.
The authority had been proactive in providing advice and guidance to food businesses. Initiatives had also taken place to promote food hygiene and food standards.
The authority had used a wide range of enforcement tools to secure improved business compliance with food legislation. Where enforcement action had been taken it was appropriate, however, in some cases had not been undertaken in accordance with the Enforcement Policy, Food Law Code of Practice and official guidance.
There was evidence of internal monitoring of both food hygiene and food standards matters. The scope and detail of the internal monitoring activity would benefit from being expanded to include additional areas of service delivery.
Auditors established that significant progress had been made in implementing requirements following the 2014 focused audit of official hygiene controls at Dairy establishments. The outstanding requirements have been absorbed into the recommendations of this report.