Local authorities ‘struggle’ to fulfil food safety duties

By Alice Foster

- Last updated on GMT

The Food Standards Agency issues warning over food law enforcement by local authorities
The Food Standards Agency issues warning over food law enforcement by local authorities

Related tags Food standards agency

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has voiced “growing concern” over the ability of cash-strapped local authorities to tackle food crimes and keep consumers safe.

Many local authorities were struggling to provide adequate food safety enforcement services amid ongoing budget cuts, the FSA director in Wales Nina Purcell warned. 

“The overall position is one of growing concern,”​ Purcell said in a board paper published this week. 

“At a local level there are a good number of authorities which are struggling to undertake interventions of food businesses at the required frequencies.​ 

‘Sampling levels fall’ 

“More generally, the number of food businesses and customer complaints continue to rise, while local authority staff resources, intervention and sampling levels continue to fall.” 

Monitoring of local authorities revealed that many of them were not able to deliver the food safety service required under the Food Law Code of Practice, the paper added. 

“We are also acutely aware that local authority resources, particularly in England, will face further significant reductions over the next few years,” ​it said.  

The FSA’s paper on local authority enforcement activity will come before the FSA board during a meeting in London on Thursday January 28. 

Interventions have fallen​ 

Food hygiene interventions have fallen by 6.8% and food standards interventions have fallen by 6% over the past five years, the paper said. 

“Although possibly due in part to more targeted sampling, the number of UK official samples has followed a steep downward trend,”​ it said. 

The FSA said the number of food law enforcement staff was down 17%, adding: “The decline has been most significant with regard to food standards where there has been a reduction of 38.6%.”​ 

But during the same period complaints about the safety and quality of food and the hygiene standards of food establishments rose by 9.3%.

Figures at a glance

  • Food hygiene interventions down 6.8%
  • Professional staff down 17%
  • Complaints up 9.3%

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