We carried out a survey of all local authorities (LAs) across the three countries and 104 LAs replied. The survey assessed how LAs plan and prioritise their food standards work, the resources and capacity they have and how they measure the success of their programmes.
Heather Hancock, FSA Chairman said:
'We have had growing concerns that the delivery of food standards is not working as well as it should be. This survey provides evidence of the scale and nature of the problems, evidence on which we can design and deliver a better way to protect consumers in the future.
'Our results show that food standards delivery is hampered by inadequate resources, and an out of date and inflexible approach to regulation. Whilst the position varies across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it clearly demands action and we can’t just patch this up. It needs a fundamental look at how we provide better protection for consumers in the future, with flexibility to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, and targeting risks wherever they arise. Addressing food standards will become the next priority in our programme to reform and improve food regulation.
'Any solution will need to be underpinned by professional local inspection: skilled people at local authority level remain critically important. The future approach is likely to mean a bigger role for intelligence gathering, the development of national priorities, and greater involvement of the National Food Crime Unit. I am grateful for the ongoing support from ACTSO, CTSI, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and the Regulating Our Future (ROF) Food Standards Working Group as we continue to work together to develop options for a possible new regime.
'My Board will be discussing the Review and the survey findings on the 5 December and we will be aiming to agree a way forward at the meeting.'
David Pickering, Trading Standards Manager, Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards said:
'CTSI welcomes the review of food standards work as part of the ROF programme. We look forward to working with the FSA to use the data in the report to inform the design of a system of regulation that recognises the importance of food standards so that consumers can be confident that food is safe and what it says it is and that food businesses meet their responsibilities. We will continue to contribute to the ROF process to produce a regulatory framework that enables resources to be targeted in the most effective and efficient way, highlighting best practice and maximising the impact of the work we do.'
Key findings from the survey
- Levels of food standards resource in England are generally lower than in Wales and Northern Ireland, with 22% of English LAs having less than 1 Full-Time Equivalent (‘FTE’) person dedicated to food standards work.
- 15% of food businesses are unrated for food standards risk, however the figures for some LAs are higher
- LAs had difficulty in recruiting qualified officers and 57% of LAs were not in a position to support a student through the qualification process
Alternative approaches to food standards delivery are being adopted effectively by many LAs. We intend to explore and build on areas of good practice as part of our reform programme.
Read the review
Review to be discussed at the next FSA Board meeting
The review of food standards has been published as part of the FSA Board papers.
The next Board meeting will be held at Church House in London on Wednesday 5 December 2018 at 8.30am. You can attend in person or watch it live online.
For details on how to register to attend the Board meeting, please see the Board section of our website.