Environmental health expert says inspectors miss the mark

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Related tags: Local government, Law, Inspection

The competence of many local authority inspectors has been called into question by an expert environmental health consultant.Safety and hygiene...

The competence of many local authority inspectors has been called into question by an expert environmental health consultant.
Safety and hygiene inspectors frequently don't have expertise in the areas of food manufacture they are inspecting. Consequently, inspections are frequently inconsistent and inspectors often stray beyond their legal remit, claimed Jonathan France, environmental health team leader for Exova, formerly known as Bodycote Lawlabs.
France, who advises manufacturers and retailers on inspections, reported that it was quite common for officers carrying out inspections to attempt to enforce items that were outside the regulations. The result was that unnecessary and costly procedures were sometimes adopted by the firms inspected, he added.
"To comply with what the law states; that is the main thing. Good practice where possible ... to ensure a safe and legal product," said France. "But unfortunately more and more [inspectors] want what's not in the law."
Another criticism related to different approaches to inspection across different local authorities, which can be particularly problematic for businesses that are operating across a wide geographical area of the country.
The move to having one 'primary authority' to ensure consistency of inspections at multiple sites should go some way to address this issue. The Primary Authority Scheme, which has been operational for six months, is being led by the Local Better Regulation Office. However, to date only 10 companies, including Boots, Dr Oetker and Iceland Foods, have signed up primary authorities, while 200 are in the pipeline, said France.
"It's still early days but one of the things manufacturers want to get out of it is consistency of enforcement," said France. "In our role as consultants, that's what we try to get ... We know what the law is and we can advise on operational practice and good practice as well."
l See food safety feature p55.