The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has introduced a revised Food Law Code of Practice (the Code) and at 158 pages, only the most determined of readers may wish to tackle it!
At face value it is a document which local authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are much more likely than you to have on their desk.
However, it contains a variety of interesting developments, which, as a food business operator, you should be aware of.
As with most documents like this, the devil is in the detail and there are some useful changes, as well as worrying ones!
Usefully, the Code attempts to facilitate consistency across local authorities in relation to compliance and enforcement action. For those of you who operate in a number of different local authority areas, this has to be welcomed and gives some hope that consistency of approach can be achieved when operating in different areas across the country.
It also indicates that those businesses with good food hygiene standards and compliance may find they have less frequent EHO visits. As you have probably guessed, those in the past who have perhaps missed more regular and detailed scrutiny in terms of compliance are to face more inspection and intervention in the future, based on risk and non-compliance.
This is due to a new food establishment intervention scoring system, which determines the frequency at which a business is visited. As you would imagine, this is determined by using risk assessment criteria. The local authority will assess the hazards, the level of compliance by the business to date, risks, and the confidence it has in the management structure of the business.
These criteria produce a score and this in turn gives a rating which determines the minimum frequency for intervention.
In the past, individual local authorities determined the level of their inspections, however the Code is designed to provide a consistent benchmark to be used by EHOs throughout the country.
Overall, the message to take from the Code is clear. If you have a good record of compliance and maintain it, local EHOs will have confidence in you to operate a business which complies with the law and the level of inspection will fall. If none of those factors apply, you can expect more visits and if non-compliance is found, there will be further intervention and enforcement action.
As I have previously discussed in other articles regarding the new sentencing guidance, which applies to food safety offences, this is not somewhere any business needs to be these days!