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Food safety inspections at risk

Updated: Jul 17, 2019

Some local authorities are struggling to keep up with food hygiene and standards checks due to cuts in funding, a report has found.

According to the National Audit Office, spending on food hygiene inspections by local authorities fell by an estimated 19% between 2012-13 and 2017-18, leading to staff cuts and delayed inspections.

Food hygiene staff numbers declined by an estimated 13% relative to the number of food businesses in operation over this period, while food standards staff reduced by 45%.

The proportion of hygiene checks that were ‘due’ and successfully carried out rose between 2012-13 and 2017-18, from 82% to 86%. However, less than half the food standards checks (to ensure food is what it says it is) that were due took place over this period, with only 37% carried out in 2017-18.

Nevertheless, most food businesses are meeting hygiene requirements, and levels of major food-borne illnesses have been broadly stable. Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, numbers of food businesses that were at least ‘broadly compliant’ with food hygiene requirements in England increased from 87% in 2013-14 to 90% in 2017-18.

The statistics come at a time when around 1 million people in the UK suffer an illness from food each year, potentially costing £1 billion.

Alex Wilkins, head of business development at training provider iHASCO, says that despite the struggles, businesses need to do their part to ensure that consumers’ health and wellbeing is not being put at risk. He comments: “At any given time, all employees should have undertaken the appropriate training to keep food safe and hygienic. This training is not optional, but rather, a legal requirement for anybody who regularly handles food.

“There is no excuse for handling or preparing food in an unsafe manner, and there’s even less of an excuse to serve this food to customers. Although time constraints and poor training are often used as reasons for poor service, this cannot be continued in any kind of hospitality or culinary establishment.”

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