Of the 381,617 food premises inspected by local environmental health officers, 179,897 had broken food safety rules in 1999. This compares with 161,671 breaking the rules in 1997 out of 363,594 inspected. While infringements have increased by 11%, the number of food premises increased by 10%. Most of the breaches are relatively minor.
Over the past three years the number of food standards inspections has fallen by 17% and food hygiene inspections by 0.7%. Food sampling by local authorities has decreased by 22% over the last three years.
Initial findings show considerable variations between local authorities which could indicate that some are being more active, and possibly more effective than others in enforcing standards in food premises.
Sir John Krebs, Food Standards Agency Chairman, said today:
"Consumers expect the food they buy from restaurants and shops to be safe. This study shows that the rules are being broken too many times by the food industry and that we must be sure that local authorities have in place effective advice, inspection and enforcement systems. It is not acceptable for the infringements to continue at these levels, nor is it acceptable for consumers not to know how effectively they are being protected. Up to now the information has been sketchy and uncoordinated. The measures we are taking will provide an effective national framework for measuring and enforcing food safety.
" We are working with local authorities and the food industry to collect more accurate information about performance. Once we are confident the information is robust we will publish performance tables on a local basis."
"Local authority enforcement officers have a crucial role to play to help protect consumers. The Agency will work with them and businesses to improve preventative and safety measures. But any businesses who are putting people's health at risk will, ultimately, face prosecution."
The Food Standards Agency is also to establish audit teams who will target local authorities where there is a need for a full investigation.
The Food Standards Agency is now responsible for collation of quarterly returns to the European Commission from all UK food authorities on specified food enforcement activity. Enforcement of food regulations is carried out by Environmental Health Officers. There were 612,203 registered food premises in the UK in 1999, 522,374 registered in 1998 and 554,089 registered in 1997.