Figures published in the Annual Environmental Health Report 1996/97, reveal that in 1996 the Courts prohibited a record twenty-one people from operating a food business. This was for serious breaches of the Food Safety Act 1990 and compares with only five people in 1995 and two in 1994. Prohibition orders are made only as a last resort and indicate a serious failure of food safety.
"We hope this is a sign that the courts take the issue of food safety seriously", said David Statham, Chairman of the CIEH Food Committee.
" Obviously prohibiting these people from operating a food business is welcome. However, it should be noted that prohibitions apply only to the named person and not to the business itself. This means that the food business can continue under another person's name, for example, a member of the same family."
Mr Statham pointed out that this does not give the full protection which the public deserve. "The Government should introduce a national licensing scheme for high risk food businesss. This will remove some of the loop-holes."
"A licensing scheme will enable a local authority to set conditions of the licence before it is granted. Rogue proprietors of food businesses will be prevented from operating before they expose the public to risk and, should they allow standards to decline seriously, the licence could be withdrawn."
At present anyone can set up a food business. There is no quality control of standards before the business starts operation. A business must register with the local authority but the registration cannot be refused. Some businesses prefer to avoid registering in order to avoid inspection.
In 1997 there were almost 100,000 cases of food poisoning in England and Wales, a record number. (Communicable Disease Surveillance Centre.)
The CIEH represents environmental health officers in England Wales and Northern Ireland. Many members, working in local authorities, are responsible for inspecting food businesses. The CIEH is the official compiling agency for prohibition orders under the Food Safety Act 1990.
The figures are in the Annual Environmental Health Report 1996/97 published Tuesday 15 September 1998. Price £8.50. For copies contact CIEH Publications on 0171 928 6006.