Yesterday in Holyrood, Alexander Stewart (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party) asked the Scottish Government what its response is to an audit report by Food Standards Scotland, which found that the Fife Council environmental health team is facing staff shortages that have led to it being unable to perform proactive visits, and instead it is focusing on responding to complaints or business queries only.
The reply from Joe FitzPatrick:
I am informed by Food Standards Scotland that it has carried out a number of Capacity and Capability Audits of Local Authorities over the past three years. Audits of Local Authorities’ food law enforcement services are part of Food Standards Scotland’s arrangements to improve consumer protection and confidence in relation to food. Food Standards Scotland was satisfied that there weren’t any imminent risks to public health. Following each audit, the Local Authority should draft an action plan to address the recommendations made within the report. These actions should be time bound and designed to address any weaknesses identified and support any necessary improvement. Food Standards Scotland follows up all action plans resulting from these audits and works with the Local Authorities until they are satisfactorily implemented. Fife Council has put an action plan in place to address the recommendations made in Food Standards Scotland’s audit report, and this has been followed up recently by Food Standards Scotland to check progress on implementation of the audit recommendations. To date 2 of 6 recommendations have been effectively implemented, and the others are progressing.
As always, a little context will help us put things into perspective but will be of little interest to our media or to their feeders such as Stewart, above. Here’s some:
From Environmental Health News on 20th September 2017:
‘English local authorities are seriously falling behind their devolved neighbours when it comes to resourcing food inspections. The latest LAEMS figures published this week reveals that each Environmental Health professional inspecting food establishments in England is responsible for 345 premises annually while in Wales the figure is nearly half that at 175. In Northern Ireland, the figure is 238 premises per EHP while in Scotland it is 204.’
At the same time, the Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System is reporting complaints about food safety standards increasing dramatically with England seeing a 24% increase in complaints dealt with last year up from 58,717 to 72,847 and the numbers of food establishments operating in the UK increasing from 627,425 in 2015/15 to 634,584 in 2016/17.
The Head of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health said:
‘In the devolved nations, they have the opportunity to resource food safety the way they think appropriate. The difference is significant and that does concern us particularly on rising number of food premises to be covered and rising numbers of premises [in England] not being inspected.’