Food Law News - UK - 2000

14 January 2000: ENFORCEMENT - Proposal to Revise Codes of Practice made under Section 40 of the Food Safety Act 1990


JFSSG Letter, 14 January 2000

Proposal to Revise Codes of Practice made under Section 40 of the Food Safety Act 1990

The Food Safety Act requires Ministers to consult with interested organisations before issuing any Code. The letter seeks views on proposals to amend Codes of Practice Numbers 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 19.

These Codes are concerned with the following areas:

Copies of each Code, incorporating the proposed amendments, were enclosed with the letter [and are available on the DH JFSSG web pages]. The annex below details the main areas of change. Consideration is being given to how to revoke the "minded - to" provision and consequently there is not a reference to the Deregulation (Improvement of Enforcement Procedures) (The Food Safety Act 1990) Order 1996 in Code of Practice Number 5. Obviously, the procedure set out in the Order must be followed until such time as revocation is effected.

The Food Safety Act 1990 enables Ministers to issue "codes of recommended practice" as to the execution and enforcement of the Act and regulations. Food authorities are required to have regard to the Codes when carrying out their food safety functions. There are currently twenty Codes of Practice covering a range of food authorities' enforcement responsibilities. There is a longer term need to take an overview of the Codes and this will be a matter for the Food Standards Agency.

When the consultation exercise has been completed the revised versions of Codes 5-9 and 19 will be produced in photocopied format. One copy will be sent free of charge to each local authority. Further copies will be available, free of charge, from: Bob Pilling, FSP(A), JFSSG (DH), Room 501A, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London SE1 6LH.

Comments should be received by no later than 17 March 2000. The Scottish Executive and the National Assembly for Wales shall undertake separate consultations in respect of their countries.

Annex: Proposed Changes of Substance to Codes issued under Section 40 of the Food Safety Act 1990

Code of Practice No. 5: Use of Improvement Notices - The Code has been amended to extend the range of officers who may be authorised to issue Improvement Notices to include those with the Higher or Ordinary Certificate in Food Premises Inspection

Code of Practice No. 6: Prohibition Procedures - The guidance on the degree of proof an authorised officer needs, to substantiate at court, a decision to prohibit the operation of a food business, has been revised. (This was an issue raised by the Pennington Report into the E. coli O157 outbreak in Lanarkshire. There was concern that an authorised officer might be reluctant to take emergency prohibition measures in view of the risk of evidence being challenged during the court proceedings.)

Code of Practice No. 7: Sampling - Local Authorities become responsible for preparing and publishing their sampling strategy on an annual basis. The guidance on both microbiological and chemical sampling has been reviewed. Formal examination of a sample, for microbiological purposes, should be undertaken when an adverse result may be used in evidence. The need to use only Official Laboratories has been introduced in accordance with the requirements of the Additional Measures concea name="00-23">MAFF Press Release (98/00), 24 March 200

Code of Practice No. 8: Food Standard Inspections - The risk assessment process for food standard inspections has been brought into line with the process used for food hygiene inspections. The opportunity has also been taken to clarify the qualifications needed by those undertaking such inspections. In addition, each food authority will now need to produce a published policy on food standards enforcement.

Code of Practice No. 9: Food Hygiene Inspections - Leading from the Fatal Accident Inquiry (FAI) Determination on the E. coli O157 outbreak in Lanarkshire, a number of amendments to this Code were considered necessary. These include clarification of the purpose, objectives and conduct of food hygiene inspections as well as clarification on the qualifications and competences of officers authorised to carry out such inspections. There are changes to the detail of the single inspection Rating Scheme, to achieve greater consistency between food authorities, plus additional guidance on the nature and style of the inspection along with specific details which must be provided to the proprietor of the food business. There is also additional guidance on the monitoring of the inspection programme and the quality of inspection, and a need to record and maintain file records of inspections is introduced. Alongside this response to the FAI findings, the opportunity is being taken to propose that each food authority will now need to produce a documented policy on food safety enforcement as well as be required to respond to government requests for urgent action outside of the normal inspection programme.

Code of Practice No. 19: Qualifications - The qualifications needed by Environmental Health Officers, Trading Standards Officers and technical officers to carry out various aspects of food safety and standards enforcement work needed clarification, to ensure enforcement action was carried out at the appropriate level. An easement has been introduced to allow appropriately qualified technical officers to issue improvement notices (see Code 5 above). (Whilst this is not brought out in this Code, it is worth noting that for recently qualified Environmental Health Officers only those who hold a certificate of professional competence may issue emergency prohibition notices - see Code of Practice Number 6). Authorised Officers who do not have qualifications that meet the requirements of Code 19 may continue their role in food standards law enforcement in the areas in which they are authorised until 30 September 2000 for high risk premises. Officers without these relevant qualifications may continue to inspect medium and low risk premises until 30 September 2001.


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