The report reveals:
However, the report did highlight some strengths, including the fact that Shetland had produced a comprehensive service plan and that internal documented procedures provide good information on the Council's systems.
The report is part of a rolling programme by the Agency which scrutinises the food law enforcement activities of all Scotland's 32 local authorities with the aim of raising national standards and improving consumer protection. Shetland is the fifth authority to be audited.
A detailed follow-up Action Plan covering key areas for improvement has been agreed with the Council.
Jim Thomson, Assistant Director of the Food Standards Agency Scotland said:
"Local food enforcement officers are the front line troops in protecting consumers from bad hygiene practice in food establishments in their area and it is therefore vitally important that they carry out their duties effectively. However, today's audit report has revealed a number of deficiencies in the food law enforcement procedures of Shetland council which puts question marks over the level of protection actually being offered to consumers in this area. By working with the council and their new management, the Food Standards Agency has put together an action plan to address these problems as quickly as possible. Given the commitment displayed by Shetland Council to improving their activities, the Agency is confident that when we go back to Shetland to review their progress they will have an improved food law enforcement service."
Jonathan Barrett, Head of Public Protection Services for Shetland Islands Council said:
"In view of the significant staffing deficiencies and lack of permanent management arrangements which the Council's environmental health service has had to bear over the last two years the results of the audit come as no surprise. I am however confident that through the careful allocation and targeting of available resources at high priority services during this period, including food safety, public safety has at no time been compromised. The audit exercise has however provided valuable external scrutiny and the 10 point action plan provides the basis on which to build an improved service. With the recent recruitment to the remaining posts, including a service manager, I have no doubt that the Council's food law enforcement service is now capable of achieve the standards required by the FSA and expected by the Shetland community."
The first wave of audits were announced on 16 July 2001 and incorporated the following local authorities: East Renfrewshire, Perth & Kinross, Stirling, Edinburgh, Shetland, Moray, South Ayrshire and Falkirk.
A team of auditors closely scrutinised the work of Shetland Council on 14 and 15 August 2001. The audits assessed the authority's conformance against specified standards with the aim of improving consistency, sharing best practice and tackling problems that hinder effective enforcement.