"We are today announcing the provision of an extra £19 million to improve the safety of the meat that people buy from their butcher. This money is intended to help local authorities make an extra 65,000 inspections of high risk premises, including butchers' shops, in order to ensure that satisfactory food hygiene standards are achieved and maintained.
"We are determined both to improve food hygiene standards and to restore public confidence in the safety of the food they are buying. That is why we have taken on board the key recommendations in the Pennington Report regarding the need to strengthen enforcement, particularly in relation to high risk premises. Amended Codes of Practice for local authorities are being published this week, so that the new enforcement measures will be implemented immediately.
"These improvements will not only help safeguard the public against further outbreaks of E. coli O157, but will also offer protection against other bugs which can flourish in unhygienic conditions.
"Professor Pennington also recommended that the implementation of food safety control systems based on Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) should be speeded up as this was the most effective way of protecting consumers. The extra money will help achieve this through the provision of training, advice, and literature to businesses that need it so that they can set up effective HACCP-based food safety controls.
"We believe that these two measures - increasing the inspection rate and speeding up the introduction of effective food safety control systems - will significantly strengthen current food safety controls and underline the Government's commitment to protecting the consumer."
The Pennington Group was established in November 1996 to examine the circumstances of a serious outbreak of E. coli O157 food poisoning in Scotland, which resulted in 20 deaths and 500 cases of illness. The Group published its report on 8 April 1997 and on 11 June the Government accepted the recommendations in full.
Professor Pennington made a number of recommendations on measures necessary to reduce the risks from E. coli O157 and improve consumer protection. Two key recommendations related to enhanced enforcement and the need to speed up the implementation of food safety control systems based on HACCP in food businesses.
The £19 million covers Great Britain. The component for England (some £12 million) will be found within existing end of year flexibility. High risk premises will include some manufacturing premises, butchers, other retailers selling cooked and raw meat, and some restaurants.
The amendments to the Food Safety Act Codes of Practice 9 and 16 are as follows:
Code of Practice 9
This gives advice on the public health protection aspects of food law and the frequency and nature of inspections aimed at assessing how food businesses are complying with food hygiene requirements. Annex 1 to the Code, which relates to frequency of inspections, has been amended to ensure Environmental Health Officers target high risk premises.
Code of Practice 16
This advises food authorities of the action they should take if a food safety problem, whether localised or potentially national in its impact, comes to light in their area. It explains the operation of the food hazard warning system operated by the Department of Health, the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office to alert the public and food authorities to major food safety problems. The amendment to the Code provides clearer guidance on:
The arrangements for Scotland are slightly different. A separate announcement outlining the details has been made today by the Scottish Office.