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Report reveals United Kingdom’s food standards system is ‘no longer fit for purpose’

Local councils are carrying out fewer than half of the food safety checks needed, says Food Standards Agency

| | Dec 13, 2018 | 4:04 pm
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United Kingdom, 13 December 2018: An official review by the United Kingdom’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed, “Lives are being put at risk because the nation’s system for policing food standards is ‘no longer fit for purpose,’” the Agency announced in a Press communiqué. The FSA review found less than half of required food standards interventions, which covers inspections, audits, surveillance and sampling, were carried out by councils in 2017-18, the communiqué said.

According to the Food Standards Agency, this means restaurants, takeaways, pubs, cafes and retailers may not be properly labelling allergens, which can trigger fatal reactions, as seen in several recent tragedies. As a result of the review, the Food Standards Agency is planning a redesign of food standards monitoring that will focus on issues and businesses that are seen as a particular risk, the communiqué said. A review by the Food Standards Agency found the problems stem from cuts in trading standards departments, with budgets falling 40% cent and staff numbers, inspections and testing all reduced, the communiqué further said. As a result, councils are unable to effectively enforce the rules governing the quality, composition, labelling, presentation, chemical contamination and advertising of food, the communiqué added.

Based on the findings, the official FSA paper concludes, “There has been a decline in the effectiveness of these official controls for some years and it is now under increasing pressure and no longer fit for purpose.”

According to the FSA, the number of trading standards officers dealing with food has fallen by 24% over the past five years, leaving the equivalent of just 338 to cover the whole of England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Many takeaways, which are considered a particular risk around failures to label allergens, are being visited just once every five years, the communiqué said.

Heather Hancock, Chair, FSA, said: “Our results show that food standards delivery is hampered by inadequate resources, and an out-of-date and inflexible approach to regulation. It needs a fundamental look at how we provide better protection for consumers in the future.”

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