Date Published: 23 March 2010

Food Standards Agency response to Consumer Focus Wales report

Health Food - illustrating an item from the UK Food Standards Agency.

The Food Standards Agency welcomes the publication of the Consumer Focus Wales report: 'Protecting consumers from E.coli O157'.

This report refers to progress on work undertaken by the Food Standards Agency and others in implementing the recommendations made in the Pennington report (published last year) on the Public Inquiry into the E.coli outbreak in South Wales in 2005. We agree that while much has already been done, there is more still to do.

While this report concerned the earlier outbreak in South Wales, the Agency is addressing its recommendations on a UK-wide basis, looking at all major causes of foodborne illness, not just E.coli; looking at all foods, not just at meat; and taking actions across the UK, not just in Wales.

It has established a Food Hygiene Delivery (FHD) Programme which has an overall purpose to minimise the level of foodborne disease through:

  • improved awareness and control of food safety hazards by food businesses, food law enforcers and consumers
  • reliable assurance that compliance with legal standards is maintained, using timely effective and proportionate enforcement where necessary

This work programme runs until 2016 and we have set out when Professor Pennington’s recommendations will be delivered – see Appendix 1 at the link below. As part of this work, a substantial review of food hygiene enforcement in Wales will take place in 2014, five years after the publication of the Public Inquiry report.

As Steve Wearne, Director of the Food Standards Agency in Wales, explained:

" The Agency’s core role is to put the consumer first and we want food that is produced or sold in the UK to be safe to eat. We are always looking for new ways to combat foodborne illness. There will always be more challenges and our work will continue through the next five years and inevitably beyond."

One point raised in the Consumer Focus Wales report is the need for the Agency to provide guidance to Environmental Health Officers on the use of separate machinery for raw meat and ready-to-eat foods. A project to develop this guidance is in progress and will address managing the risk of cross-contamination by E. coli O157 through cleaning and by providing guidance on the dual use of equipment. The Agency plans to go to consultation on this guidance in the near future.

In the past year the Agency has published several other pieces of guidance for food business operators. These are:

  • 'FSA Guidance on managing farm manures' was published in June 2009 to help reduce food poisoning from ready-to-eat crops caused by pathogenic micro-organisms including E. coli O157.
  • 'The Retail Guide' was published in August 2009 to provide practical guidance on how shopkeepers can comply with general food hygiene legislation and related requirements.

Other recommendations in the Pennington report concerned the knowledge and skills of enforcement officers. In the past year the Agency has implemented a number of measures to address this, including specific training for local authority food law enforcement officers. Current and proposed training includes:

  • case studies based on the 2005 outbreak
  • HACCP principles and application in different types of food businesses
  • audit skills and techniques and practical understanding of their effective application during inspection
  • skills to assess the culture within a food business
  • confidence in decision making on appropriate further actions including intervention/enforcement action

The Agency has also changed its audit of local authorities’ food law enforcement services. Audits now include increased checks of local authority arrangements and records for securing business compliance, on-site reality checks on 'high-risk' businesses with more interviews with inspection staff to assess and challenge inspection approaches and techniques.

 

Source: Food Standards Agency (FSA), UK..

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