Both Braintree and Harrogate have come through a thorough audit of their work with positive results. The audits cover the authorities' work on inspecting food premises in their area, the sampling they carry out and any resulting enforcement action they take. The audit also looks at how authorities respond to complaints from consumers about food and requests from business for advice.
The audit discovered that as well as providing sound food enforcement they have both been innovative in their work in helping businesses comply with the law:-
Braintree offered courses in basic, intermediate and advanced food hygiene which can be taken to the business or held at the Council offices.
They also produced and distributed a useful range of their own information leaflets and a Food Hazard Analysis Pack produced by a local Food Group. They organised 2 workshops based on the information pack.
Harrogate had established the local Food Business Forum which produced a regular newsletter which was sent to all members. The Forum provides a useful mechanism for advising on legislative requirements and consultation on enforcement issues.
The Authority had also run courses in basic food hygiene including courses run specifically for food handlers working in the voluntary sector.
A Food Safety Handbook and a DIY Toolkit on Hazard Analysis were produced in house, as well as leaflets on several aspects of food law.
Publishing the reports, Suzi Leather, Deputy Chair of the Food Standards Agency said:
" Local authorities are responsible for making sure that restaurants, take-aways, shops and caterers in their areas maintain the highest standards and follow all the rules that are there to protect the consumer. The Agency is responsible for auditing how local authorities do this work, and publishing the results so that consumers can be confident not just that this work is taking place but also that it is being scrutinised.
" I am pleased that both Braintree and Harrogate have come through this thorough audit so well. They are both to be congratulated on their performance, although they should not be complacent, as there are unsurprisingly areas where they still need to improve.
" These first audits show how the Food Standards Agency and local authorities can work in partnership to raise standards across the country. Good practice can be shared and support given in areas where authorities need to improve. "
Nicky Garside, Assistant Director (Health) at Harrogate Borough Council said of the audit:
" We are very pleased with the outcome of the audit and to be told that the council's services and its officers are in the main meeting the Food Standards Agency's expectations. But we will certainly take on board the areas for improvement identified. This is good for people living in and visiting the district. It is also a nice reward for the day to day work put in by a very dedicated team."
Braintree District Council Executive member for the Environment, Cllr David Mann, said:
"This was a rigorous audit and we are obviously delighted to have performed so well in it. It is reassuring for all of us in the Braintree District to know local food hygiene and safety standards are so actively and ably policed."
The remaining 7 reports from the first wave of audits are currently being completed and will be published shortly. The names of the local authorities included in the next wave of audits have also been announced today. They are: Hampshire, Bradford, Lewes, Oxford City, Middlesborough, Wokingham, Chichester, Crewe and Nantwich, Cambridge City and Basingstoke and Deane.
The first audits were announced on 22 January 2001 and included the following local authorities: Braintree, Broxtowe, Copeland District, Northamptonshire, Telford and Wrekin, Shrewsbury and Atcham, Harrogate, Dudley and Hillingdon. The second wave of audits will take place between July and September 2001.
Copies of the reports and the audit can be found on the FSA website at http://www.foodstandards.gov.uk/industry/report_foodlaw1stpg.htm