The Environmental Health Manager, Mr. Colin Alborough to provide an update on food safety.
The Panel welcomed Mr. Colin Alborough, Environmental Health Manager, and Mr. Oliver Robinson, Principal Food Safety Officer, who attended the meeting to give the Panel an update on the Council’s Food Safety Policy including emerging issues and demand.
The Panel were made aware of a number of new issues and initiatives, including new legislation around food allergies and intolerances, food labels would highlight in “bold”, food types that could cause allergic reactions and intolerances, such as nuts, wheat, milk etc. The Government had also produced “eatwell – your guide to healthy eating”, the guide included eight top tips covering all aspects of eating a healthy balanced diet. It was advised that there had also been a new two stage cleaning process introduced to help combat germs such as e-coli.
Mr. Alborough advised of the purposes of the Food and Health and Safety Team, which were linked to the Council’s purpose and themes and were developed through systems thinking principles. The purposes were:
· To ensure that food and drink on sale for human consumption, which had been produced, stored, handled or consumed in the Borough was without risk to the health and safety of the consumer.
· To enable good business.
The Panel noted that the service worked to the Food Standards Agency Framework Agreement and the Food Law Code of Practice, each of which described the role of an enforcing authority and provided risk based proactive and reactive intervention and business support.
Mr. Alborough reported on the demand on the service, especially:
· Inspecting and rating businesses – during 2014/15, 372 existing businesses were formally inspected and rated. Businesses were scored on a 0-5 Food Hygiene Rating, those with the lower score received support and intervention from the authority to bring their rating higher. It was noted that five businesses in the Borough rated one or below at the end of 2014/15.
· Supporting new business – during 2014/15, 135 new business were supported prior to opening and inspected and rated after opening.
· Responding to statutory notifications and having a reactive role with service requests – the service received around 550 service requests per year. These requests included complaints about food and food premises, food alerts/recalls and notifications of infectious disease.
· The role of Primary Authority to the British Army – wherever the British Army consumed food it did so in accordance with guidance agreed with Rushmoor Environmental Health Services. A Primary Authority (PA) was a partnership between businesses and a single local authority for environmental health with the following characteristics:
o The PA provided robust and reliable advice which had to be respected by all local regulators.
o A national inspection plan could be produced to improve the effectiveness of inspections to avoid repeat checks
o The PA enabled better information sharing
o The PA had the authority to co-ordinate enforcement to ensure a consistent and proportionate response to issues
o Businesses had the right to decide on the level of support it received from its local PA
o A PA could recover costs
Moving forward, it was advised that the Food Safety Team would continue to support their customers by further embedding systems thinking principles into their work, by responding appropriately to emerging issues, by increasing regulatory review and by keeping relevant to the changing times. It was also noted that the teams would endeavour to recover more costs and increase income where possible.
In response to a query, Mr. Robinson advised that every primary food business in the Borough would be subject to a Food Hygiene Rating. Inspections took place on a rolling basis of 1-3 years depending on the risk level of the individual business; most businesses were well into their second or third inspection visit. It was noted that, if a business changed hands, an inspection would be carried out after a suitable period of time to ensure standards had been maintained; new business were contacted prior to opening with the offer of advice and support.
The Chairman thanked Mr. Alborough and Mr. Robinson for their presentation.