Regulating Our Future audit data research published

Last updated:
9 March 2017
Regulating our future
The Food Standards Agency has today published the findings from two recent projects which looked at whether audit data collected by food businesses could be used by local authorities to check food hygiene standards and decide ratings.

The feasibility studies, which involved the retailer Tesco and pub restaurant chain Mitchells & Butlers, were organised by the FSA as part of its Regulating Our Future (ROF) programme. This programme is redesigning the FSA’s regulatory role and the way in which food and feed regulation is delivered to protect consumers.

From September to December 2016, the FSA worked with Tesco, Mitchells & Butlers, and their audit providers, together with volunteer local authorities, to test the companies’ own assurance data against the strict food safety requirements which local authorities use to check food businesses are complying with the law.

How the studies were carried out

The Mitchells & Butlers study involved shadow inspections between Bristol City Council officers and Mitchells & Butlers’ ‘first party’ (in-house) auditors and their ‘second party’ (external) auditors. The work with Tesco used data from the retailer’s second party auditors, which was assessed by volunteer food safety officers from 22 local authorities to see if an FHRS rating could be provided based solely on the stores’ audit data.

Results

The Mitchells & Butlers study demonstrated that the local authority officers and second party auditors were assessing and scoring compliance in a similar way. In the Tesco study, there was also a good degree of consistency between food hygiene ratings given during the exercise and those awarded by local authorities.

The studies showed that industry data could potentially be used by enforcement officers to assess the compliance of food businesses. However, the studies concluded that further work is necessary to establish how private sector audit data could be used to provide assurance that businesses are complying with food law.

Nina Purcell, Director of Regulatory Delivery and Wales, said:

“These studies have provided us with a valuable insight to inform our current thinking on Regulating our Future, which is a crucial piece of regulatory reform. The studies demonstrated that data from businesses’ own compliance checks could potentially be used to inform the scope, nature and frequency of official controls.

“Whilst the studies were limited in scope and were not representative of all food businesses, it was useful to work with both a major national retailer and caterer who openly provided data for the trials." 

Regulating Our Future

The ROF programme is looking at what food safety information is available, from a wider range of sources, and how this could be used in future to gain assurance that food is safe and what it says it is.

The FSA recognises that there needs to be a robust framework for assurance and that this will not follow a ‘one size fits all’ approach. The assurance standard will be set by the FSA and the new model will allow data from multiple assurance providers including official controls delivery bodies and voluntary private assurance schemes to be taken into account. The FSA will remain the overarching authority with oversight of the system.

Further Information

Further details of the Mitchells & Butlers and Tesco studies can be found in the reports attached below. More information on Regulating Our Future is available in the link on this page.