Agenda Item No. 4(ii)
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 8th December 2016
Report of the Director of Social Services
Food Safety Interventions
Purpose of the Report
- To update members of the work carried out by Shared Regulatory Service following a request by Cllr Richard Bertin.
- The Committee notes the work currently being undertaken to deliver food safety interventions in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice.
- The Committee continues to receive regular updates in relation to the performance of the Food Service.
Reasons for the Recommendations
- To ensure the Committee is aware of the current service delivery mechanisms for the food law enforcement service in the Vale of Glamorgan.
- To allow Scrutiny to exercise effective oversight of this key area of working.
- The Council has a duty, which has been delegated to the Shared Regulatory Service Joint Committee, to enforce the Food Safety Act 1990; the Official Food and Feed Controls (Wales) Regulations 2009 and a wide variety of other food / feed legislation including the Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006.
- As part of the Food Standards Agency's Framework agreement the Council is required to produce a Food Safety Service Plan setting out the arrangements in place to discharge these duties. This Food and Feed Law Enforcement Service Plan is produced in response to that requirement and is designed to set out the arrangements the Councils have in place to regulate food safety.
- A copy of the Food & Feed Law Enforcement Service Plan for 2016/17 approved by Shared Regulatory Service Joint Committee has been attached to this report as Appendix 1.
- The Service Plan details how the Shared Regulatory Service will fulfil the major purpose of ensuring the safety and quality of the food chain to minimise risk to human and animal health. To achieve this, the Council will provide advice, education and guidance on what the law requires, conduct inspections, investigations, undertake sampling and take enforcement action where appropriate.
- The plan details the demands on the service, the risk based work programme and the resources available to deliver the required work. As with many other Council services, the service faces increasing demands with reducing resource.
- The plan explains the Food Standards Agency expectations of Local Authorities, some of the achievements in 2015/16, and the challenges for the year ahead.
- At the last meeting of the Healthy Living and Social care Scrutiny Committee, an elected member raised a number of queries relating to food law enforcement in the Vale of Glamorgan. Those queries are set out below along with a response from the Shared Regulatory Service.
Do we have enough staff to cope?
- The Food Law Enforcement Plan, which was approved by Shared Regulatory Service Joint Committee on the 18th May 2016, sets out the intervention programme for 2016/17. This programme was established on a risk basis ensuring that higher risk premises would be prioritised. The term high risk premises includes those businesses rated as:-
- Category A (those premises requiring a visit every six months).
- Category B (those premises requiring an annual visit).
- Category C (those premises requiring a visit every 18 months).
- The Service aims to inspect 100% of A and B rated food businesses in 2016/17.
- 80% of C rated food businesses due an intervention this year are targeted to receive a full inspection. Of the 80% target, food businesses that have a food hygiene rating of less than 5 will be subject to a full inspection.
- The planned decrease in inspections to C rated premises is due to the appointment of newly qualified Technical Officers who currently do not satisfy the current framework of the Food Law Code of Practice enabling them to inspect food businesses. In order to meet this performance target in 2016/17 contractors will be employed to assist with C rated businesses. Upon qualification, the technical officers will assume these inspection duties.
How much are the contractors costing and for how long will they be employed?
- Contractors employed by the service are paid £47.95 for a full inspection. A programme of work has been issued to the contractors until the end of this financial year.
How many inspections are we behind?
- At 17th November 2016, the food law enforcement programme status is as follows:
- 7 of 7 A rated premises have been visited; the target of 100% has been met.
- 41 of 63 B rated premises have been visited. It is anticipated that the target of 100% will be met.
- 155 of 331 C rated businesses have been completed, (47%). At this stage in the programme the service would have expected to have visited 206 of the 331 premises. Some of the reasons for the shortfall are set out below. It is anticipated that the target of 80% will be met by the end of the financial year.
- It is important to stress that the inspection programme is a proactive regime with an inspection schedule being set at the beginning of each financial year. The resources allocated are sufficient to deliver the proactive programme set out in the Business Plan and to deal with a small percentage of non-compliances. However, predicting levels of non-compliance with any certainty is challenging. In 2016/17, there have been a higher number of non-compliances detected within the Vale of Glamorgan than anticipated. Consequently, the number of broadly compliant food premises has dropped. The service is working with those businesses in question to improve food hygiene practices. That "educational" work, or in the worst cases where legal action is deemed appropriate, draws resource away from the proactive regime and as such some inspection programmes do not achieve the target at the end of the year. Where this occurs, priority is given to the A and B rated premises at all times.
What are the risks to the public?
- Most of us have become ill by accidentally consuming contaminated food at one time or another. The result can be very mild-just transient nausea, diarrhoea, or other unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms; however, sometimes the consequences are often much more serious.
- Food associated outbreaks are unpredictable due to the complexity of the food supply chain and interventions are often required even at premises with high hygiene standards.
- Ultimately, the food industry is responsible for producing and distributing safe food. The Shared Regulatory Service, as the enforcement agency, conducts inspections, ensuring that standards are met through a robust enforcement programme to deal with those who do not comply with standards. This enforcement programme uses the national risk rating regime for the inspection of food premises as set out in paragraph 9 above. Those premises perceived to present the highest risk to public health are visited every 6 months. As the perceived risk diminishes, so does the inspection frequency. The inspection programme is supplemented by a food sampling regime and responses to consumer complaints.
How will the service improve?
- It is anticipated that the aforementioned newly appointed officers will be successful in completion of the required training which will enable them to carry out the functions required by the Food and Port Health Team. This will therefore increase capacity of the team to ensure effective and timely inspections for next financial year.
- The structure of Shared Regulatory Services provides greater resilience to the food service allowing resources to be re allocated in areas of lower performance.
Relevant Issues and Options
- The findings of the report should be noted.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- A summary of the resources available across the Regulatory Service for dealing with safety (Food Hygiene, Trading Standards) is contained in the Business plan for the service. To deliver the full requirements of the Framework Agreement would require additional resource. In year re-prioritisation may need to be undertaken to ensure that resources are deployed as effectively as possible.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- Sustainability and climate change implications have been taken into consideration when drafting the plan referenced in this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- Under Section 41 of the Food Safety Act 1990, as amended by paragraph 18 of Schedule 5 to the Food Standards Act 1999, the Food Standards Agency can require Food Authorities to provide them with reports and information regarding the Authorities' enforcement of the Act. Local Authorities are required to supply them with statistical information on inspections, prosecutions, official samples, and informal samples.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- Crime and disorder implications have been taken into consideration when drafting the Business plans referenced in this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- Equalities issues have been taken into consideration when drafting the plan referenced in this report.
- The Food law enforcement service plan demonstrates the partner Councils commitment to improving social, economic, environmental and cultural well-being and promoting sustainable development in line with the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. Improving how the Council evidences and reports achievement of its Well-being Outcomes contributes towards promoting well-being.
Policy Framework and Budget
- Approval of the Food law Enforcement service Plan is a matter for the Joint Committee.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- There are no implications for Ward Members resulting from this report.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Health Living and Social Care Scrutiny.
Food Law Enforcement Plan
Christina Hill, Operational Manager, Commercial Services, Shared Regulatory Services
Head of Shared Regulatory Services
Miles Punter - Director of Environment and Housing Services
Phil Evans, Director of Social Services