The  Food  Standards  Agency  has  today published the results of its first
in-depth  public  audits  of  how  local authorities are performing against
their  responsibilities  for  protecting consumers and enforcing the law on
food  hygiene  and  safety  locally.  Braintree in Essex and Harrogate in N
Yorkshire are the authorities whose results are being published today.

Both  Braintree  and  Harrogate have come through a thorough audit of their
work  with  positive  results.  The  audits  cover the authorities' work on
inspecting food premises in their area, the sampling they carry out and any
resulting  enforcement  action  they  take.  The  audit  also  looks at how
authorities  respond  to  complaints from consumers about food and requests
from business for advice.

The  audit discovered that as well as providing sound food enforcement they
have  both  been innovative in their work in helping businesses comply with
the law:-

   Braintree  offered  courses  in  basic,  intermediate  and advanced food
   hygiene  which  can  be  taken  to  the  business or held at the Council
   offices.

   They  also  produced  and  distributed  a  useful  range  of  their  own
   information leaflets and a Food Hazard Analysis Pack produced by a local
   Food Group. They organised 2 workshops based on the information pack.

   Harrogate had established the local Food Business Forum which produced a
   regular  newsletter  which was sent to all members. The Forum provides a
   useful   mechanism   for   advising   on  legislative  requirements  and
   consultation on enforcement issues.

   The  Authority  had  also  run  courses  in basic food hygiene including
   courses  run  specifically  for  food  handlers working in the voluntary
   sector.

   A  Food  Safety  Handbook  and  a  DIY  Toolkit  on Hazard Analysis were
   produced in house, as well as leaflets on several aspects of food law.


Publishing  the  reports,  Suzi Leather, Deputy Chair of the Food Standards
Agency said:

"  Local  authorities  are  responsible  for  making sure that restaurants,
take-aways,  shops  and  caterers  in  their  areas  maintain  the  highest
standards  and follow all the rules that are there to protect the consumer.
The  Agency is responsible for auditing how local authorities do this work,
and publishing the results so that consumers can be confident not just that
this work is taking place but also that it is being scrutinised.

"  I  am  pleased  that both Braintree and Harrogate have come through this
thorough  audit  so  well.  They  are  both  to  be  congratulated on their
performance,   although  they  should  not  be  complacent,  as  there  are
unsurprisingly areas where they still need to improve.

"  These  first  audits  show  how  the  Food  Standards  Agency  and local
authorities  can work in partnership to raise standards across the country.
Good  practice  can  be shared and support given in areas where authorities
need to improve.  "

Nicky  Garside,  Assistant  Director  (Health) at Harrogate Borough Council
said of the audit:

" We are very pleased with the outcome of the audit and to be told that the
council's  services  and  its  officers  are  in  the main meeting the Food
Standards  Agency's  expectations.  But we will certainly take on board the
areas  for  improvement  identified.  This is good for people living in and
visiting the district. It is also a nice reward for the day to day work put
in by a very dedicated team."

Braintree District Council Executive member for the Environment, Cllr David
Mann, said:

"This was a rigorous audit and we are obviously delighted to have performed
so  well in it. It is reassuring for all of us in the Braintree District to
know  local  food  hygiene  and  safety  standards are so actively and ably
policed."

The  remaining  7 reports from the first wave of audits are currently being
completed   and  will  be  published   shortly.  The  names  of  the  local
authorities  included  in  the next wave of audits have also been announced
today.  They  are: Hampshire, Bradford, Lewes, Oxford City, Middlesborough,
Wokingham,  Chichester,  Crewe and Nantwich, Cambridge City and Basingstoke
and Deane.

Notes to Editors

  1. The  first  audits  were  announced on 22 January 2001 and included the following   local  authorities:  Braintree,  Broxtowe,  Copeland  District,
    Northamptonshire,  Telford  and  Wrekin, Shrewsbury and Atcham,  Harrogate, Dudley and Hillingdon.
  2. The  second  wave  of audits will take place between July and September
    2001.
  3. Copies  of  the  reports  and the audit can be found on the FSA website
    www.foodstandards.gov.uk