The first UK-wide standard for local food law enforcement to ensure high standards of food safety and consumer protection is published today by the Food Standards Agency.

From 1 April 2001 the 499 UK local authorities, responsible for ensuring the safety of more than 600,000 food establishments, will have to work to a common standard to bring local enforcement of food hygiene, food standards and feedingstuffs legislation up to the level of the best performing local enforcers.

The new national standard will mean increased public accountability, consumers will be able to find out how well their local council is doing through:
  • published local authority service plans setting out food enforcement priorities;


  • publication of the Agency's annual audit programme and reports on individual local authority performance;


  • quarterly reports to the Agency, which will be published, on enforcement activity carried out by local authorities; and


  • an annual report on local food enforcement activity and the performance of all UK local authorities.
    This will lead to more effective and consistent enforcement of national food law across the UK and improve consumer protection. This will include the checks carried out on food imported into the UK.
The Agency will draw together all information on local authority enforcement activity and performance and publish a 'state of the nation's food controls' report annually - the first report will be published in July 2002.

Launching the Agreement, Sir John Krebs, Food Standards Agency Chairman said:

" Now, for the first time consumers will be able to find out how well their local council is doing to make food safe in their area. Through this important new partnership the Food Standards Agency and local authorities will protect people's health and the interests of consumers in relation to food by ensuring effective enforcement and monitoring of food safety and standards at a local level.

"This historic new Agreement will strengthen protection for everyone covering every type of food - from baby food to ice-cream, from frozen sausages to the sauces you put on your plate. It covers all producers and retailers, from farm to fork, helping to ensure food is safe for us to eat. It is a key part of our campaign to reduce foodborne illness by 20% over the next five years."

Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chairman of the Local Government Association, said:

"Local authorities are committed to delivering effective food enforcement which, along with other local regulatory services, provide essential public protection and ensure business compliance.

"The Local Government Association (LGA) welcomes the Agency's Framework Agreement and the partnership approach in which it was developed. It will help local authorities in their delivery of Best Value, allowing them to take proper account of the expectations of the Agency as they deliver food law enforcement services at the local level having regard to the needs and priorities of local residents and businesses."

The arrangements to increase the accountability of local authority enforcement are set out in the Local Authority Enforcement Framework Agreement published today. The Agreement, prepared in partnership with local authorities, industry and consumer groups, is a key step to improve food safety and was a commitment announced at the Agency's launch in April.


NOTES TO EDITORS

The Food Standards Agency Board endorsed the approach and timetable for the Framework Agreement in Belfast on 21 September 2000.

The Framework Agreement will come into force on 1 April 2001. The publication of monitoring information will be published in July 2002.

Local authorities currently make returns to Government on their food enforcement activities. The Agency recently published the returns for 1999. The new Framework Agreement significantly enhances the information made available and introduces a new enforcement standard and audit arrangements.

Development of the Framework Agreement started in 1998 and was carried out through the Local Authority Enforcement Liaison Group (LAELG), a joint Government/local authority group. A consultation document on the final draft of the Framework Agreement was issued on 3 April 2000 and received wide support from UK local authorities and other stakeholders.

The Food Standards Agency was set up in April 2000 to protect people's health and the interests of consumers in relation to food. It is an independent Government Department.