23 Nov 2018 --- A Food Standards Agency (FSA) review examining how local authorities in England, Wales and Northern Ireland prioritize their food standards reveals that work is “hampered by inadequate resources and an out-of-date and inflexible approach to regulation.” The FSA has growing concerns that the delivery of food standards is not working as well as it should, following the survey. A “fundamental look” at how the agency provides better protection for consumers in the future is urgently needed, it reports.
The FSA carried out a survey of all local authorities (LAs) across the three countries and 104 LAs replied. The survey assessed how LAs plan and prioritize their food standards work, the resources and capacity they have and how they measure the success of their programs.
The key findings from the survey are;
- Levels of food standards resources in England are generally lower than in Wales and Northern Ireland, with 22 percent of English LAs having less than one full-time equivalent person dedicated to food standards work.
- Fifteen percent 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 percent 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. The FSA intends to explore and build on areas of good practice as part of its reform program.
“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,” says Heather Hancock, FSA Chairperson.
“Our results show that food standards delivery is hampered by inadequate resources, and an out of date and inflexible approach to regulation. While 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 program 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.”
The FSA Board plans to discuss the review and survey findings early next month.
To contact our editorial team please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org