FSA plans new food safety role

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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