Following publication in July of data on enforcement activity, 228 UK local authorities were contacted by the Agency for more detailed information. Forty authorities had inadequate IT systems to track and manage their enforcement activity effectively. Eighteen local authorities had unacceptably low levels of enforcement activity in key areas: below 50 percent inspections of high risk premises or lack of any food sampling activity.
The Food Standards Agency is already in touch with the relevant local authorities about measures to address sampling and inspection shortfalls. Fourteen of the 18 authorities have already taken remedial action. Those whose performance does not improve this year will be audited by the Agency.
The 18 local authorities are:
Publishing the figures today, Sir John Krebs, Chairman of the Food Standards Agency, said:
"Local authorities have a tough job to do. I am very pleased that out of nearly 500 local authorities in the UK, nearly all are effectively enforcing food law. They are at the sharp end of food law enforcement, protecting the interests of the consumer. They make an invaluable contribution to public protection as we have seen in recent weeks with the stepping-up of spot checks on imported beef and the introduction of the new butchers' licensing scheme. But there is a worrying difference in the level and focus of enforcement activity across the country and we need to make sure that the standards are raised to the level of the best.
"I have been very encouraged by the response of all the authorities involved in this first Agency investigation of local authority activity. Fourteen of the local authorities with low levels of inspection or sampling have already taken steps to improve their performance in these areas. We will work with the other four to make the necessary changes.
"With the publication of the Framework Agreement, developed in partnership with the Agency, local authorities, industry and consumers, we will, for the first time, have nationwide standards for food law enforcement. We will audit local authority performance and publish the information."
The findings will be presented to the Agency's Board at their meeting on Thursday 14 December. Sir John will also give the keynote speech at the Food Law Enforcement Conference on Friday 15 December where he will speak to more than 200 local authority officials and elected members about the importance of their role in local consumer protection in the run-up to the implementation of the UK-wide standard for food law enforcement.
The findings are published in the Food Standards Agency Board Paper on 'Monitoring Local Authority Performance: Follow-up report' to be considered by the Agency's Board at its meeting on Thursday 14 December at the Royal National Hotel, London. Copies of the paper are on the Agency's website at www.foodstandards.gov.uk/events. It shows the result of follow-up action of analysis of information contained in the 1999 return made to the European Commission under Article 14 of the Official Control of Foodstuffs Directive 89/397 (OCD) published by the Food Standards Agency on 19 July, news release 2000/0028.