The move follows publication of new statistics which show a recorded increase in the number of hygiene and safety infringements in Scottish shops, restaurants and other food establishments. Almost a quarter of premises in Scotland breached hygiene and safety regulations in 1999. The vast majority of these were of a minor nature where local authorities were confident that the problems will be corrected easily. However, 73 premises were closed down during the course of the year. Thirty-two premises were the subject of prosecutions, of which 18 led to convictions.
The figures were revealed in a report to the Scottish Food Advisory Committee, which met for the second time today. Sir John Arbuthnott, Chairman of the Committee, said:
"These figures, together with recent events such as the outbreak of a rare Salmonella strain, demonstrate why hygiene in food premises must be a top priority for the Food Standards Agency Scotland. Whether it's a six course dinner at a five star hotel or a kebab on the way home from the pub, we should all be able to eat a meal safe in the knowledge that it will not be our last or, at the very least, that it will not leave us feeling ill for days.
"If retailers or producers fail to meet food safety standards they must expect to feel the full force of the law. There will be no hiding place for shoddy practices and sloppy procedures. And the enforcement authorities must be prepared to use their powers to the full if public confidence is to be increased.
"The Food Standards Agency Scotland will play its part. It will protect consumers by tightening up safety and hygiene standards where necessary. Butchers' licensing, due to begin on 2 October, is a prime example. The Agency in Scotland will also continue to work closely with environmental health officers so that they can carry out their work effectively.
"An enhanced monitoring and audit scheme is being proposed for environmental health departments, which will greatly improve the accessibility and transparency of information available on local enforcement activity. This will allow the Agency to better assess the performance of individual departments and to target those authorities where improvement is required."
The Local Authority Food Law Enforcement Activities in Scotland report was submitted to the Scottish Food Advisory Committee, which held its second public meeting today. The report is available on the internet (in pdf format) at: http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/pdf_files/sfacp500.pdf
There were 54,054 food establishments in Scotland in 1999. A total of 12,058 (22%) received written warnings and 73 were closed down.