Called MyHACCP, it will also help firms with the production of a documented food safety management system based on hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) principles, as required by EU food hygiene rules. It comes with a range of resources to assist firms in completing the tool, together with understanding the implementation of HACCP principles.
While mainly aimed at small UK food manufacturing businesses, MyHACCP will probably also be useful to businesses in other food sectors, said the FSA. This is likely to include businesses with up to 50 employees. Access to the tool is not available to food businesses outside the UK.
Food hygiene controls
“It is a tool for small businesses to help them construct [food hygiene controls] in a non-bureaucratic way, which doesn’t require them to spend lots of money on consultancy on their own HACCP plans,” said FSA chief executive Catherine Brown.
“Before we go to the full launch of that, we have 800 businesses who are signed up to use it, so that is great. It shows the appetite in businesses to meet their obligations and it shows us supporting people who want to do that.”
The FSA recognises that it will need to provide more support for small food businesses across the UK as pressure on local authority environmental health department budgets increases. Increasingly, they have fewer staff and less money available to provide the sort of free advice that they have traditionally offered to local food businesses on matters such as hygiene.
“We are already seeing significant reduction in standards work and you can see that starting to happen in environmental health too,” said Brown. “So, there is lots we can do and are doing in terms of supporting people within the local authority system.”
Continuing funding cuts
Brown admitted concern about the potential impact of continuing funding cuts on local authority budgets. This was despite all the work that local authorities had done to mitigate their effects, such as cutting back-office costs and overheads; through sharing regulatory services; and by focusing on higher risk premises.
“The big question for everybody is how are we going to make that resource go further? How are we going to protect the functioning system?” she said. “Because it really won’t be in the interests of industry – let alone consumers – for that framework to break down. And I’m not in the business of suggesting that everything is fine. The prognosis is worrying.”
Watch out for our video interview with Brown next week, in which she talks about Professor Chris Elliott’s proposals for setting up a Food Crime Unit within the FSA following last year’s horsemeat contamination scandal. Also, see the June issue of sister publication Food Manufacture for a full interview with Brown.
Meanwhile, the Food Manufacture Group is staging a one-day food safety conference , on Wednesday October 15, designed to help firms avoid food and drink recalls that could cost millions of pounds.