FSA Enforcement Letter (ENF/E/10/042), 22 October 2010
As you may be aware, Lord Young’s report on health & safety was published on 15 October. I wanted to draw your attention to the recommendations in the report that relate to food safety and to let you know about the FSA’s plans for taking these forward.
The report is available at the link below. In his forward to this, the Prime Minister highlights that Lord Young will remain as his advisor on the issues covered by the report and will work with departments on seeing the recommendations put into effect. http://www.number10.gov.uk/news/latest-news/2010/10/lord-young-report-55605
I have outlined below what we are proposing to do to take forward the recommendations on food safety.
Combining food safety and health & safety inspections in local authorities
In making this recommendation, Lord Young recognised that some local authorities are already doing this. We are working with HSE on this and propose to hold discussions with representatives of local authorities and the relevant professional bodies on taking forward this recommendation with a view to issuing formal guidance to local authorities in January 2011.
Open the delivery of inspections to accredited certification bodies
The aim of this recommendation is to reduce the burden on local authorities and allow them to further target resources on high risk businesses. This links with the work underway to develop a compliance and enforcement strategy which will include use of Earned Recognition in interventions. Consideration of this recommendation will, therefore, form a part of our on-going discussions with representatives of local authorities and the relevant professional bodies on intervention approaches and the wider use of Earned Recognition. The aim is that following stakeholder consultation, we will present proposals to the FSA Board at its May 2011 meeting.
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS)
Lord Young recognises the clear benefits of the FHRS to both consumers and food businesses and the need to have a single national scheme rather than continuing with a range of different ‘local’ schemes. He sees consistency as being essential and he wants all local authorities to operate the FHRS. In making the recommendation for compulsory participation, the Coalition Government has set a clear direction of travel on this issue which we will be discussing with Local Government representative bodies.
Legislation will be needed to put this recommendation into effect and we are currently considering the options for this. In the meantime we will be continuing to encourage LAs to adopt the scheme voluntarily and remain committed to providing a range of support so that the impact (including costs) of participation – whether on a voluntary or mandatory basis – is minimised.
Lord Young supports the FSA’s decision to test the voluntary approach to display of ratings at premises first rather than making it mandatory at this stage. A review of this in April 2012 as set out in his report provides a reasonable timescale for assessing the effectiveness of this. We will incorporate this into plans we are developing on evaluation of the scheme.
The recommendation for results of inspections to be published by local authorities in an on-line database in an open and standard way is being met through food.gov.uk/ratings. This went live on 1 October and our very first ‘early adopters’ are now uploading data and publishing ratings. Further development of the IT is underway to ensure that the system remains fit for purpose and we will continue to work with local authorities on this through our IT Advisory Group.
Lord Young recognises the need to harness the power of local and national media to promote and publicise the FHRS and this is exactly what we have been planning to do. We have already started to work with ‘early adopters’ on promoting the FHRS locally and regionally and we are preparing for our first major national publicity around the end of November/beginning of December.
The need for a re-visits mechanism is recognised and Lord Young suggests that businesses should pay for this. Again this is in line with what the FSA Board discussed back in December 2008. It is, however, the FSA’s view that it would not currently be lawful to do this as the necessary statutory powers are not available so this will need to be factored in when taking the recommendation forward.
There are clearly a number of challenges ahead in putting the recommendations into effect. We look forward to your contributions and views on how we can meet these challenges and we will keep you updated as matters progress.