Food businesses 'must report health risks'

Food Standard Agency (FSA) lawyers have confirmed that it is a criminal offence for any food or catering business regardless of size to not inform their local authority that they may have sold food posing a health risk.

Speaking at the CIEH 5th Annual Food Safety Conference member of the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety (AMSCF), Dr Sally Millership, told delegates that there was now clarity on what had been an area of confusion within the enforcement community and amongst businesses.

The statement of clarification from the FSA is contained within the recently published AMSCF draft report on viruses in the food chain.

‘When we started our discussion on this report I was under the impression there is actually no duty on a catering business to report anything and that it is our duty to try and find them,’ Dr Millership told delegates.

‘Then after about six or nine months we got out of the Food Standards Agency legal department that failure by any food business to report immediately is an offence.
'So restaurants who hire their private EHOs to come along and advise them to throw food samples away and don’t tell you straight away are actually committing a criminal offence.’

According to Dr Millership the FSA advice means that is within a local authority’s powers to take a food business to court for simply failing to inform them of an incident regardless of whether investigating EHPs find a risk to health or not.

The local authority power to prosecute exists under Article 19 EU General Food Law Regulation which states food business must report when they believe they have ‘placed food on the market injurious to human health’.

The exact wording of the FSA legal team advice to the AMSCF runs as follows: 'Failure by any food business operator to report immediately to the competent authority "when it has reason to believe that a food it has placed on the market is injurious to human health constitutes a criminal offence".'

While there has always been clarity on the role of local authorities, laboratories and clinicians when it comes to a potential food safety risk the legal responsibilities attached to food and catering businesses has been less clear.

In an incident reported In EHN last week the Kensington branch of McDonald’s served a raw burger to a customer. The first that local EHOs heard of the incident is when EHN contacted them following an article appearing in the Metro Newspaper.


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