Agenda item - Information Report - Food Safety Recovery Plan June 2021

Agenda item

Information Report - Food Safety Recovery Plan June 2021


Members received an Information Report on the Food Safety Recovery Plan.


The Technical Services Manager, Worcestershire Regulatory Services (WRS) introduced the report and in doing so informed the Board that, the six district councils were responsible for delivering official food safety controls and related activities in most food establishments in Worcestershire.


These control activities included inspections, audits, surveillance, sampling and other types of interventions such as projects and questionnaires.


Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, local authorities were expected to undertake all official controls and related activities prescribed in specific legislation and those contained within specific Food Standards Agency (FSA) guidance and Code of Practice.


At the beginning of the pandemic response the FSA suspended the routine food hygiene intervention programme in recognition of the challenges local regulatory services faced in protecting our communities from Covid-19.  The suspension also reflected the changing business landscape, with many food businesses closing or changing operations due to the Covid control regime.  WRS responded by continuing to target limited resources at the highest risk establishments while deferring planned interventions.  This approach was extended by the FSA nationally until the end of June 2021.


Members’ attention was drawn to Appendices A and B which detailed the two phases of the plan which would run from 1st July 2021 until April 2023 and beyond.


The plan focused on re-starting the regulatory delivery system in line with the Food Law Codes of Practice for the highest risk establishments while providing greater flexibility for lower risk establishments.


Members’ attention was further drawn to the recovery roadmap detailed on page 20 of the main agenda report.


The Technical Manager, WRS stated that in common with all local authorities, the backlog of interventions across Worcestershire was very challenging in terms of number, but he would assure Members that throughout the pandemic officers had continued to address poor performing businesses, who would be starting from a very high base of 98% broadly compliant operations. 


Officers would restart the planned interventions in as risk-based manner, focussing resources where they added the greatest value in providing safeguards for consumers and securing compliance.  The FSA would closely monitor that food safety programmes were reinstated and brought up to date within the relevant timescales.


The service had requested an additional £25,000 from the 2020/2021 underspend to be carried forward in order to supplement the funding from the Worcestershire County Council to support Phase 1 of the recovery plan.  Food competent agency Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) were in short supply and £25,000 would buy around 17 weeks of competent officer time.


In response to questions from Members, the Head of Regulatory Services informed the Board that, so that partners did not face any shocks, Worcestershire County Council would pay for EHOs during June 2021, out of Covid funds, but that may not cover all costs.  He needed to look at the extended period, so £25,000 was a reasonable contribution at this stage.


The Head of Regulatory Services responded to questions with regard to new businesses and informed the Board that, new businesses had had a paper exercise to review their compliance for a food safety rating, with virtual video links, as an initial approach, in order for new businesses to trade.  These would be followed up with physical during the next 2/3 months.  The vast majority had complied really well and officers were not anticipating any huge difficulties.


In response to some concerns raised by Members with regards to staff welfare during the pandemic and the increase in workload, the Head of Regulatory Services referred to the Staff Survey, which was detailed at Agenda Item 8, the WRS Annual Report 2020/2021.


The Head of Regulatory Services stated that a staff survey was carried out annually.  50 out of 68 staff had responded to the survey.  Senior officers had,  during the pandemic, communicated with staff regularly and had been very concerned to check staff welfare during the pandemic. 


RESOLVED that the Information Report – Food Safety Recovery Plan, be noted and that Members use the contents of the information report provided in their own reporting back to their respective partner authority.


Supporting documents: