Food Law News - UK - 1996

5 August 1996: ENFORCEMENT - Enforcement Codes of Practice

5 August 1996

Enforcement Codes of Practice

Two new enforcement Codes of Practice (numbers 19 and 20) have been issued under Section 40 of the Food Safety Act and a revised version of Code number 8.

Code of Practice No. 19: Qualifications and Experience of Authorised Officers and Experts.

This Code sets out the obligations on food authorities which are necessary to meet the requirements of the Additional Food Control Measures Directive (93/99) which supplemented the controls contained in the Official Control of Foodstuffs Directive (89/397). Article 2 of the Directive 93/99 states:
"Member States shall ensure that the competent authorities have, or have access to, a sufficient number of suitably qualified and experienced staff, in particular in areas such as chemistry, food chemistry, veterinary medicine, medicine, food microbiology, food hygiene, food technology and law so that the controls referred to in Article 5 of Directive 89/397/EEC can be adequately carried out."

The Code requires the authorities to ensure that all officers are qualified and experienced and then goes on to indicate which qualifications are considered appropriate. It also points out that officers need to have a sound knowledge of the general principles in criminal law and enforcement practice which would include the due diligence/reasonable precautions defences and the rules which relate to interviewing persons. Guidance is given on the continued employment of officers who do not have the specified qualifications.

Code of Practice No 20: Exchange of Information between Member States of the EU on Routine Food Control Matters

As with Code 19 above, this Code arises out of the requirements of Directive 93/99. Article 6 of the Directive requires Member States to provide assistance in the supervision of food law and in all proceeding for infringements of food law. It also requires the appointment of a single liaison body which will assist and co-ordinate communication.

LACOTS has been designated as the UK liaison body but central government will maintain a supervisory role and will be responsible for action for certain matters. Information is given on the action to be taken by a food authority when they receive a request for assistance and when they require assistance from another Member State.

The Code indicates the important procedures to be followed when obtaining information which could be used as evidence in court proceedings. In these cases, the provisions of the "European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters" apply (with the exception of Ireland) and consent must be obtained via the UK Central Authority which is part of the Judicial Co-operation Unit of the Home Office.

Code of Practice No 8 (Revised): Food Standards Inspections

This revised Code emphasises the role of enforcement officers in advising food businesses on how to comply with the law; sates the need to ensure that such officers are properly qualified; and the co-ordinating role of bodies such as LACOTS and local authority liaison groups. It includes an "inspection rating scheme" which is considered appropriate for allocating a risk to premises and, based on the risk, it indicates a minimum frequency of inspection. For the purposes of this code, "food standards" means legal requirements covering the quality, composition, labelling, presentation and advertising of food and of materials or articles in contact with food.

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