The Agency is addressing this issue because of evidence of the threat to public health from poor standards of food hygiene. The majority of ships and aircraft inspected do meet at least reasonable standards, backed up by industry self-regulation. However, the importance of the issue is highlighted by evidence submitted to the Agency by the Association of Port Health Authorities, revealing that there are significant examples of poor food hygiene on cruise ships and ferry boats operating out of the UK:
The Consumers Association has also submitted evidence that details UK consumers' complaints over the last two years, including:
Suzi Leather, Deputy Chairman of the Food Standards Agency said:
" Everything possible must be done to ensure that food hygiene on ships and aircraft is up to the standard of, and subject to the same scrutiny as, any other food business. Anyone taking a plane, a cruise or a ferry across the channel has the right to be reassured that the highest standards of food hygiene are in place and properly enforced. "
Peter Rotheram, Executive Secretary of the Association of Port Health Authorities added:
" The Association is pleased that the Food Standards Agency is getting to grips with this important issue. We want to be able to do the most effective job to protect people from poor food hygiene standards, wherever they occur, and we need the powers to do that. "
The Agency's Board next Wednesday will consider a paper outlining the evidence and issues surrounding the problem. One of the key areas is the issue of extending the statutory powers of entry for enforcement officers so that they have a right to carry out food hygiene inspections on ships and aircraft. At present, no such statutory power exists, and food authorities rely on voluntary arrangements with the airlines and shipping companies to allow their officers access to ships and aircraft. The Board will consider the adequacy of the system, and decide on whether to consult on the need for such powers of entry.