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News

Tony Lewis, CIEH head of policy, has appeared on BBC breakfast time TV calling for the mandatory display of food hygiene rating scheme (FHRS) scores in England. 

Under FHRS, food businesses, including restaurants and takeaways, are awarded a hygiene score of from zero to five based on an inspection by local authority EHOs. The rating takes into account structure, hygiene practices and confidence in management. Display of the score became mandatory in Wales in 2013 and in Northern Ireland last year.

Calling for a ‘level playing feld’, both between England and the devolved nations and within England itself, Mr Lewis told the programme that the present situation is unsatisfactory. He said: ‘We know that the scores incentivise businesses to improve their performance and that they are liked and relied upon by the public. It’s wholly inconsistent that the same system does not apply the across the whole country.
 
‘The Food Standards Agency’s “regulating our future” programme along with changes that will inevitably follow post-Brexit presents us with a good opportunity to put this right. With the FSA, CIEH, Which? and the Local Government Association now all agreeing that England is losing out and calling for change, the momentum behind this is becoming unstoppable. It’s time for the government to act.’

The FSA has made public its calls on ministers to make display of FHRS scores a legal requirement in England. In 2015, the agency presented research to government providing robust evidence that FHRS had resulted in significantly increased business compliance with food safety. It argued: ‘the scheme is driving up standards. It is currently the best proxy measure for public health protection.’

In its plan ‘regulating our future’, the FSA states: ‘Strengthening FHRS is a key goal, including ensuring that it is sustainable and that there is mandatory display legislation in England.’

A survey carried out by consumer organization Which? in 2013 found that 95 per cent of people thought that hygiene ratings should be clearly displayed on food businesses’ windows or doors. A Which spokesperson said: ‘The scheme has the potential to raise levels of compliance across business but while display remains voluntary for food businesses, it will be largely the better performers that display this information, rather than those that present the greatest risk to consumers.

Earlier in the week, the Local Government Association had added its weight to the calls. Simon Blackburn, chair of the LGA’s safer and stronger communities board said: ‘The post-Brexit review of EU laws gives the government choices. With mandatory hygiene rating display already in force in Wales and Northern Ireland, the UK leaving the EU provides a crucial opportunity to toughen up food safety laws by extending the legislation to England.’

According to the FSA, there are more than 500,000 cases of food poisoning a year from known pathogens. Campylobacter is the most common foodborne pathogen, making more than half of cases. The next most common is Clostridium perfringens. Salmonella is the pathogen that causes the most hospital admission. Poultry meat is the food linked to the most cases of food poisoning.

The financial crisis facing the UK’s care home sector is at its deepest in the West Midlands, according to research from restructuring and insolvency trade body R3.

chris radford

August figures, compiled using Bureau Van Dijk's Fame database, highlight that almost half (46.7 per cent) of medical nursing homes in the region have an elevated risk of insolvency. This is the highest proportion in the UK and is almost ten points above the national average of 37.1 per cent.

West Midlands residential care homes catering for those with learning difficulties, mental health or substance abuse issues are also struggling more than any of their UK counterparts.

One in four (24.6 per cent) has an increased risk of insolvency, which is close to six points above the national average of 18.9 per cent.

There are similar statistics among West Midlands residential nursing care operators, with one in four (25.3 per cent) carrying an elevated risk of insolvency, the highest proportion in the UK outside Wales and six points above the national average of 19.4 per cent.

R3 Midlands chairman Chris Radford (pictured), a partner at Gateley plc in Birmingham, said: "Quite clearly, the West Midlands care home sector has some substantial challenges with hundreds of businesses in serious financial danger.

"Although the statistics do not explain why care home finances are so critical in the region, anecdotal problems include falling council contributions towards residents' fees and an increase in staffing overheads.

"Alongside such funding difficulties, local care home businesses are trying to cope with a number of other challenges, including a minimum wage which is now £1 higher than it was in 2015, due to the introduction of the national living wage.

"The prospect of Brexit also means that many care home operators are struggling to recruit and retain enough staff. The sector is reliant on EU workers, many of whom are now reconsidering whether or not to continue to work in the UK.

"R3 is advising care home operators to continue to monitor their finances carefully. If cash flow becomes a major challenge, it is imperative to seek professional advice sooner rather than later."

Reference: https://www.greaterbirminghamchambers.com

Reference: https://www.food.gov.uk

The FSA Chairman, Heather Hancock, has today published the department's plans to change food regulation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The document called, ‘Regulating Our Future – Why food regulation needs to change and how we are going to do it’, sets out proposals to transform the way food businesses are regulated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Read the full paper here: Regulating Our Future: Why food regulation needs to change and how we are going to do it.

A modern, flexible and responsive regulatory system

Heather Hancock said: “Along with EU Exit, changing the way food businesses are regulated is one of our two key priorities for the years ahead.

“The case for changing the food regulation system is strong. We need to reform the way we regulate to keep up the pace of change in the global food economy: in what we eat, where we consume it, how it reaches us. We need a modern, flexible and responsive regulatory system. It is important that we act now, rather than wait for the system to falter, risking damaging consequences for public health and for trust in food. These reform plans are given extra momentum as the UK leaves the EU, a step that will adjust patterns of food production, trade and consumption.

“This plan is the result of 18 months' debate and discussion with all the stakeholders in this area: businesses big and small, local authorities, third party assurers and consumers. We have developed the blueprint through open policy making, maintaining our principles of openness and transparency to give the public confidence in food safety and standards.

"At the heart of our plans is an enhanced system of registration for all food businesses, on the basis of which we will apply proportionate, risk-based controls. We want the outcomes from these changes to be a more robust, sustainable regulatory regime, one that sees standards improve in risky businesses, reduces the administrative burden for businesses that demonstrate they are compliant with food law, and sees effective enforcement action against food businesses that fail to fulfil their obligations.

“The new regulatory approach means big changes for the FSA, including strengthening our oversight of all the bodies involved in inspecting and assuring food businesses. We want to improve relationships with industry, bring a more commercially astute understanding onto our regulatory decisions, and above all ensure that the stringent and robust standards we set help food businesses fulfil their responsibility to produce food that is safe and what it says it is.”

Future changes

The paper details the changes the FSA wants to make to build a modern, risk-based, proportionate, robust and resilient system. Chief among these are:

  • An enhanced system of registration for businesses, which will mean securing better information on all businesses so that we can better identify and manage risk across the food chain. Knowing more about a food business will enable us to make better judgments about regulating it. We want to create a hostile environment for those businesses that don’t proactively register.
  • Segmenting businesses in a better way using a range of risk indicators based on wider information about the business, including the information gathered at the point of registration and from other sources.
  • We want to be confident that businesses are doing the right thing and we will introduce more options for how they prove it. Depending on how robust the information that businesses share is, including their past performance, we will set the frequency and type of inspection activity they face. This means businesses with a good history of compliance will face a lower burden from regulation, and free up local authority resources to target the businesses that present the greatest risk to public health.
  • We remain committed to our very successful and trusted Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. We will continue to ensure the scheme is sustainable and display becomes mandatory in England as it is in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Responding to emerging risks

Heather Hancock added: “It's essential that the FSA acts now to address the risks in our current regulatory approach. Being proactive, rather than waiting for a crisis, is the responsible approach. We want to ensure that food regulation in the future is fit for purpose, anticipates and responds to new, emerging risks, and uses new technology and data to evidence that food businesses are fulfilling their obligations for food to be safe and authentic. I recognise that change brings uncertainty, that it causes concern for some. We have the time and skills to work together on the details, continuing to try out options and learn from tests, so that when the fully reformed system is in place after 2020, we can all be confident that it is robust, sustainable, and delivers the benefits that the public and business rightly expect.”

Dear Lesley

As you will be aware, on Monday 22nd May 2017, 22 people were tragically killed and more than 59 were injured in a terrorist attack at Manchester Arena.

premiertrainingAmong those who were injured was Josie Howarth, who runs the Wonkey Donkey Visitors Centre for abused and abandoned donkeys in Knottingley. Josie and her sister were waiting in the foyer of Manchester Arena for their nieces when the attack occurred.

Having recently received first aid training from a Qualsafe Awards Centre, Josie was able to save her own life by improvising a tourniquet from her handbag strap to stop the catastrophic bleed from her leg.

Both Josie and her sister have now undergone major operations to treat their injuries, but Josie still remains in a critical condition due to a severe infection from contaminated shrapnel. A GoFundMe page has been set up by a close family friend on behalf of Wonkey Donkey Visitors Centre in order to raise funds to cover the organisation’s running costs whilst the family recover.

To donate to this very worthy cause, please click here.

If you can’t donate personally, we ask that you please share this with as many people as possible so that the family don't have to worry about keeping the sanctuary running during this extremely difficult and emotional time.

You can read more on Josie’s story and how her improvised tourniquet helped save her life, by clicking here.

Kind regards

Qualsafe Awards

The Food Standards Agency is proposing to establish private sector ‘certified regulatory auditors’ responsible for ensuring business compliance with food safety controls. 

The new role is outlined in a report to be presented to the FSA board next Wednesday detailing progress to date and future plans around the Regulating our Future (RoF) agenda designed to address reduced public sector resources.

The paper describes a certified regulatory auditor or a CRA as ‘a centrally authorised competent person in the private sector who obtains direct evidence of business compliance and could also be authorised by LAs to undertake other activities within their areas of responsibility.’

The introduction of such a role would be a key plank to the FSA’s plans to introduce food business assurance schemes as a way of taking pressure off local authority inspection regimes. 

The plans are likely to fuel concerns among some EHPs that this is just another step towards industry self-regulation. 

The FSA is currently reviewing how certification works in other industries and countries with research to date revealing the need for robust competency levels for those in the private sector responsible for assessing a company’s food hygiene standards. It is suggested that a CRA could fulfil such a role.  

Under the proposals a CRA would also be able to provide evidence of a businesses appropriate Food Hygiene Rating Score. The FSA argues ‘this type of approach will be required to support a FHRS scheme that is credible, sustainable and capable of supporting the operation of a mandatory display of hygiene ratings in England’.

The details of how a CRA would work with the existing regulatory enforcement regime are to be explored in the next work stream.

The board paper also expands on plans for food businesses to have a permit to trade before being able to sell food to the public. Early consumer research has revealed that a ‘significant proportion’ of the public thought there was already such a system in place.

According to the FSA there is agreement among both regulators and businesses that the current food registration regime is not fit for purpose and that a permit to trade should be linked to risk rather than being a ‘one size fits all’ scheme. This would require a sector approach to any new scheme.  

Keeping details about food businesses at a local authority level is described in the board papers as presenting ‘significant limitations’ when it comes to managing risk in business trading across different local authorities. The FSA is arguing that it will need central oversight of all businesses if it is hope to be an effective Central Competent Authority.

Launched in February 2016 RoF is an FSA driven programme to introduce a new regulatory framework in England, Wales and N Ireland by 2020 that is capable of leveraging business behaviour to ensure food safety.
These plans along with other RoF proposals will be discussed at the next FSA board meeting to be held next Wednesday 15 March starting at 9.00. The meeting will be streamed live on the Internet through the FSA website.

Part of the RoF programme is to include preparations for exit from the European Union. In particular,  the FSA says, it is exploring what additional controls may be required to facilitate trading relations with other countries.

Article source: http://www.ehn-online.com/news/

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