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FSA Board Meeting Paper (FSA 16/01/05), 14 January 2016
The following is the initial part of the report prepared for the FSA Board Meeting on the 28 January 2016. The full paper and data analysis is available on this site. See: Enforcement Annual Report 2014/15
As part of its duties under the Food Standards Act 1999, and in accordance with the requirements of Regulation (EC) No 882/2004 on official feed and food controls, the FSA is responsible for monitoring and reporting the performance of local authorities in enforcing relevant food safety legislation. Arrangements for this are set out in the Framework Agreement on the Delivery of Official Feed and Food Controls by Local Authorities. Data on how local authorities are delivering their food law enforcement services are collected annually through LAEMS (Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System). The returns cover enforcement activity in relation to food hygiene (microbiological quality and contamination of food by micro-organisms or foreign matter), food standards (composition, chemical contamination, adulteration and labelling of food), and also food imported from third countries.
The Board has received annual papers on local authority monitoring data since 2001. The data are also used to report on food control activities to the European Commission as part of the annual reports on the implementation of the UK’s National Control Plan.
Local authority delivery of official food controls on behalf of the FSA supports the delivery of three of the FSA’s four strategic outcomes for 2015 to 2020, namely that food is safe, food is what it says it is, and that consumers can make informed choices about where and what to eat.
Analysis of the annual monitoring data on local authority performance helps us to understand how effectively and consistently these objectives are being delivered. It indicates the levels of control activity by individual local authorities and thereby helps determine if effective food regulatory services are in place locally. In the case of food hygiene, the data indicates the levels of food business compliance, a key proxy measure for public health protection.
The data is also used to inform the FSA’s local authority audit programmes and the development of the FSA’s Regulatory Strategy and work on developing future delivery models.
Submission of LAEMS returns includes validation checks and requires formal sign-off by each local authority’s Head of Service. This provides assurance and enables more robust secondary analyses of trends and variations in local authority delivery. Details of the data checks that were undertaken to ensure metrics used and the comparisons made are reliable are included at Annex A of the Annual Report for 2014-15. The Annual Report, together with the summary data on individual local authorities, forms Official Statistics on UK local authority food law enforcement activity for 2014/15. The Official Statistics were published on the FSA website on 11 November 2015.
For Northern Ireland, the 2014/15 LAEMS returns covered only the first three quarters of the reporting period. This was agreed in advance of local government reorganisation which reduced the number of district councils from 26 to 11 on 1 April 2015. In view of this, Northern Ireland has been excluded this year from secondary analysis of data for interventions and enforcement.
Significant issues raised by the 2014/15 UK LAEMS returns for food hygiene and food standards, and from over the last five years, are set out in the Annex to this paper. As in previous years, the reported data for 2014/15 shows a very mixed picture. This is more pronounced in relation to England and for food standards activity.
The overall position is one of growing concern. At a local level there are a good number of authorities which are struggling to undertake interventions of food businesses at the required frequencies. More generally, the number of food businesses and customer complaints continue to rise, while local authority staff resources, intervention and sampling levels continue to fall. These trends, along with more detailed knowledge we have from our liaison with and audits of local authorities, highlight that many are not able to deliver a food service as set out in statutory Food Law Code of Practice. We are also acutely aware that local authority resources, particularly in England, will face further significant reductions over the next few years.As we develop an effective and sustainable model for making sure businesses are producing food that is safe and what it says it is, we will be working closely with local authorities. Many are already adopting new ways of working to meet the challenge of delivering consumer protection in a changing world, and we are keen to learn from these as we work to make full use of all available ways of securing assurance of business compliance.