The Food Standards Agency has reviewed how local authorities and port health authorities undertake activities to monitor and secure business compliance with food and feed law. These activities are collectively known as ‘official controls’. The review evaluated the effectiveness of the current delivery model and considered the scope for making improvements. We gathered evidence to assess the current system based on a set of defined guiding principles and outcomes. The outcomes provided a list of specific requirements, from a food safety perspective, for what a successful system of official controls delivery should include. These formed the basis of assessment for the current delivery model.
This research was one of the eight projects in the review’s evidence programme.
The aim of this project was to provide as complete a picture as possible of current delivery of food safety and standards official controls in the delegated delivery model, including: how it is structured, resources available, areas of other responsibility and variation in practice, and how the system is adapting to cuts in budget and changes in remit.
The complexity of the current delivery picture must be recognized by the research in relation to local authority enforcement. There are variations in approaches to official controls delivery between the devolved administrations of the UK, and variations in approach between local authorities and port health authorities within the same country.
This work package:
- reviewed what process and plan data was available from existing sources and recommended additional sources where identified
- identified what data was needed (both in terms of processes and plans for change) to meet the needs of the review
- identified the gaps between the data required and that already available
- ran a survey to fill some of these gaps*
- obtained specific information on budget cuts and handling, both at local authority level and official controls delivery level
- merged and analysed all of the data collected (including characterisation of performance, forecasting trends, identifying best practice)
- identified potential areas of concern or areas for improvement
- reported and presented the findings
Both quantitative and qualitative data were collected to meet the aims of the project.
*The remaining gaps were filled by a separate study involving in-depth case studies of authorities – project FS616021.
It will be necessary to collect both quantitative and qualitative data to meet the aims of the project.
Impacts or implications of the project include:
- A trend in the decline in training places, particularly in relation to managerial and leadership skills, which should be a concern for professional officers. This may have an impact upon potential for professional officers gaining career progression and in having any impact upon the planning and delivery of a service.
- Investigations should consider how Scotland generates income from a high number of export certificates, while Wales does not.
- Local authorities are starting to change their approaches to lower risk establishments
- 48% English and 55% Scottish local authorities showed significant changes to budget but no changes in outcomes.
- Delegation of work to less experienced and/or less qualified staff – could FSA make a difference here?
- Making combined data available to researchers.
- Disseminating information on robust nature of system.
- What factors or cut-offs do local authorities use to determine the gravity of enforcement actions taken: e.g. prohibition order as opposed to simple caution etc? or how consistently are rules applied?
- What risk-based (or other) factors do local authorities use to determine when, what and where to take enforcement samples?
The true value of the data will be determined only when findings are combined with the case study data. Recommendations include:
Further work using the data could focus on: