Food Law News - UK - 2007

FSA Press Release (2007/0693), 4 June 2007

HYGIENE - Farming industry and local authorities set to reap the benefits of new inspection scheme says FSA

A new scheme which radically changes the approach to how farms are inspected, will lead to significant savings in terms of time and costs for thousands of farms and local authorities around the country, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) today.

The initiative, following EU legislation and developed by the FSA in partnership with local authorities and industry, involves membership of a recognised farm assurance scheme, which means a lower frequency of food hygiene inspections, thereby reducing burdens on that business and benefiting farmers, local authorities, and consumers.

Savings each year will be in the region of £571,000 for farmers and £2million for local authorities across the UK .

Welcoming this initiative, Philip Clarke, Head of the FSA's Better Regulation and Consultation Branch, said: 'The Agency is firmly committed to reducing regulatory burdens on food businesses, whilst still maintaining the highest levels of consumer protection. The initiative announced today will help focus inspections and make regulations simpler - this will benefit farmers, local authorities, and consumers - as we believe making compliance with the law simpler will increase levels of compliance.'

As a result of these changes, whereby membership of farm assurance schemes drives inspection frequency, inspections will spotlight farming sectors identified as having a higher food safety risk.

'Focussing the efforts of local authorities on high-risk premises in this way, should improve consumer protection as enforcement action would be targeted where the risks occur,' said Philip.

Information was provided by the Food Standards Agency to local authorities about 102,000 farms in England during March and April this year, so that they could start applying the new enforcement regime.

The following additional notes have been provided:

1. The new scheme applies to those farms where food hygiene rules apply for the first time under Regulation EC 852/2004 on the hygiene of foodstuffs. Farm assurance schemes set on-farm standards covering food safety, animal welfare and some environmental protection. The standards also allow traceability of food products and these are the items displaying the red tractor logo in the shops. Membership of assurance schemes is voluntary, with farmers paying a yearly subscription. The regular inspections of the assurance scheme members are carried out by independent certification bodies, usually on an annual basis.

2. Around 150 local authorities have primary producers in their area.

3. Details of 102,000 farms across England were distributed by Agency staff directly to each local authority. The reduced burden will affect around 107,000 farms in England . Information will also apply to animal feed legislation on farms from 1 January 2008.

4. The FSA published its first Simplification Plan in December 2006. The Plan promised to deliver savings of just over £195 million in administrative and policy savings for the public and private sectors. FSA are now developing a second Plan, which will set out the savings realised by stakeholders from the initiatives in the first Plan and enter new initiatives promising to deliver future simplification.

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