A survey conducted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) found resources in England were generally lower, with 22% of English LAs having less than one full-time equivalent person dedicated to food standards work.
It also found that 15% of food businesses are unrated for food standards risks, with this figure reportedly higher for some LAs.
FSA chair Heather Hancock said there had been growing concerns that the delivery of food standards was not working as well as it should be and the survey provided evidence of the scale and nature of the problems.
“Our results show that food standards delivery is hampered by inadequate resources and an out of date and inflexible approach to regulation,” said Hancock.
‘Better protection for consumers’
“It needs a fundamental look at how we provide better protection for consumers in the future, with flexibility to respond to rapidly changing circumstances, and targeting risks wherever they arise.”
Another finding of the report was that LAs in England and Wales that appeared to struggle to comply fully with their obligations relating to interventions due under the Food Law Code of Practice.
Responses also indicated a lack of new personnel entering the profession via the Trading Standards Qualification Framework, with issues concerning both the numbers of students coming into food standards regulation and the capacity of LAs to provide adequate support and practical experience to trainees.
Commenting on the actions the FSA would take, Hancock added: “The future approach is likely to mean a bigger role for intelligence gathering, the development of national priorities and greater involvement of the National Food Crime Unit.
‘Possible new regime’
Hancock said the FSA would work with the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers, the Chartered Trading Standards Institute, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and the Regulating Our Future (ROF) Food Standards Working Group to develop options for “a possible new regime”.
The FSA is to discuss the review and the survey findings in a meeting on 5 December at 8.30am, which can be attended in person or viewed online.
David Pickering, trading standards manager for Buckinghamshire and Surrey Trading Standards said: “We look forward to working with the FSA to use the data in the report to inform the design of a system of regulation that recognises the importance of food standards.
“We will continue to contribute to the ROF process to produce a regulatory framework that enables resources to be targeted in the most effective and efficient way, highlighting best practice and maximising the impact of the work we do.”