Food processors need to make themselves heard amid sweeping local government reforms with widespread implications for the industry, according to Graham Jukes, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health.
The most significant initiative is the Primary Authority (PA) scheme - starting on April 6. The Local Better Regulation Office (LBRO) launched a three-month consultation on how to operate the programme last month.
The point of PAs is to give manufacturers operating across the UK one local authority to liaise with on everything from Trading Standards to Environmental Health issues, and cutting red tape. The LBRO suggests firms are less likely to receive conflicting advice if they do not have to consult multiple councils.
The current thinking is that the PA should be in the same area as a company headquarters. "The LBRO will take on the role of enforcing authority," said Jukes. "A business' HQ would create a relationship with the PA. Enforcement would flow through it before action was taken."
But he said the scheme raised questions. "If it helps business and local regulation, great, but is this going to prevent prompt and timely action? What if the local authority isn't geared up to become a PA?"
Interested parties have until February 27 to provide input on how the PA idea should work.
The LBRO is also working on other projects. These include raising competency levels for local government inspectors, harmonising risk assessment measures and a 'trading places' scheme, where council officials swap roles with senior business managers to improve understanding. This last scheme is being rolled out early in the New Year.