The Board considered a report that provided information on Food Safety Interventions.
The Environmental Health &
Trading Standards Manager
Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS), presented the report and informed Members that for many businesses WRS was still perceived as primarily a regulator, even though WRS had long adopted the principle of supporting businesses to thrive.
The WRS database of food businesses currently stood at over 5,000. However, Members should note that this was a fluid figure, with some 500-600 new businesses registering each year and a similar number closing. WRS were reliant on intelligence for picking up new businesses.
Approximately one-third of registered food premises were inspected annually in accordance with the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) inspection regime.
As seen in WRS Activity and Performance Reports, WRS were not afraid to prosecute for food offences.
The Sentencing Guidelines 2014 for Food and Health and Safety Offences had created a seismic shift in the potential impact on businesses as the Courts now understood what kind of punishments they should impose. In many cases this was significantly higher than previously.
This was a welcome change in the legal landscape as fines for larger businesses were in real terms relatively insignificant in the past. Although prosecution in Worcestershire was a rarely used tool, it did mean that WRS had had to tighten their enforcement processes, as stronger legal challenges, especially on technical aspects of investigations) were now inevitable.
In England there was still no legal requirement to display a FHRS sticker but in most businesses it was now visibly displayed as a badge of honour. Where a business changed hands the previous rating immediately ceased and the premises would be subject to a new inspection. It was an offence for a business to display an incorrect rating.
In autumn a ‘Triple Five Award’ would be introduced. Board Members had approved the introduction of the award scheme, to reward longstanding high performers, who had achieved three successive L5, FHRS ratings.
Members were asked to note that, social media on reading press reports of poor scores often ask why the business wasn’t closed down. There was a legally established process for closure which must involve an imminent risk to public health. This was a legal term which had to be evidenced by such conditions as a dangerous process, the high risk of cross contamination, a serious active pest infestation or extremely dirty conditions.
Without doubt the biggest challenge to food officers had been achieving allergen compliance. The Food Information Regulations 2014 required businesses to assess 14 specific allergens and to ensure that customers were aware of which foods contained them.
The Healthier Choices Scheme was a fee paying ‘membership’ scheme set up to encourage more food businesses to introduce healthier options on their menus. There was a WRS officer trained in nutrition and the scheme was programmed around nutrition. A new marketing assistant would be looking at re-marketing and re-launching the scheme, with successful businesses being awarded with a certificate / badge.
The Head of Regulatory Services also informed Members that the scheme had three levels, bronze, silver and gold. It was hoped that this would incentivise businesses to aim for the gold award and to also maintain their gold award status.
Members were further informed that a lot of multi-agency work had been undertaken. WRS officers had worked alongside the police, fire service and housing services; working in partnership to tackle modern slavery and immigration. A lot of focus and activities had taken place around food premises and staff working in food premises.
In response to the Chairman, with regard to potential malicious complaints about food premises, the Environmental Health & Trading Standards Manager, WRS, explained that the complaint would be logged and officers would look at the information provided by the complainant. Food safety experts and intelligence officers would also be used to see if there was actually a problem with the premises.
The Head of Regulatory Services reiterated this and also commented that any previous complaints about the premises would be looked at and the history of the premises would also be taken into account, in order to ensure that the complaint was not just a malicious complaint.
RESOLVED that the Food Safety Interventions report be noted.