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Food law enforcement - Agency proposals
The Food Standards Agency announced at its launch on the 3 April that it will introduce a scheme for setting and auditing standards for the enforcement of food law by local authorities. It will:
conduct a public consultation on a proposed scheme. This scheme has been developed following extensive discussions with local authority organisations, consumer groups, and food industry representatives;
issue service planning guidance to local authorities in September 2000;
establish monitoring and audit arrangements to provide and publish data on enforcement activity and how it is being delivered;
implement the new arrangements in April 2001;
work collaboratively with local authorities to improve enforcement standards - and to ensure that the Agency's decisions and recommendations take account of the practical implications of enforcing them.
Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland have been involved in the development of these proposals. The Agency's executives in the three countries will make their own announcements on the implementation of equivalent schemes adapted to meet local circumstances.
The consultation letter from the FSA seeks comments on proposals for the Food Standards Agency accountability framework through which the Agency will establish links with local authority food law enforcement services to meet commitments as set out in the Government's White Paper "The Food Standards Agency - A Force for Change". The consultation document sets out proposals covering four main areas:
food law enforcement Service Planning Guidelines;
a food law enforcement Standard;
a scheme to monitor local authority food law enforcement activity;
a scheme to audit local authority food law enforcement activity.
In particular, comments would be welcomed on:
the overall approach proposed and its effectiveness in strengthening the Food Standards Agency's links with local authority enforcement;
the benefits of a more consistent approach to enforcement service planning and the extent to which the content of the service planning guidance proposed will assist this process;
the content of the food law enforcement Standard;
the proposed extension of information provided under a strengthened monitoring scheme; and
proposals for the Food Standards Agency audit scheme, the basis on which audits would be conducted, and the arrangements for dealing with information generated by audits.
The White Paper "The Food Standards Agency - A Force for Change" identified the need for stronger links between central and local government on food law enforcement. It also identified the Food Standards Agency as having a key role overseeing local authority enforcement activities. It envisaged the Agency setting and monitoring standards and auditing local authorities' food law enforcement activities to ensure such work was effective and undertaken on a more consistent basis. Powers to enable the Agency to monitor and audit local authorities are contained in the Food Standards Act 1999.
Following consultation on the White Paper the Joint Food Safety and Standards Group (JFSSG) held a series of meetings, in the first part of 1998, with a number of industry, enforcement and consumer organisations to discuss food law enforcement in the context of the Food Standards Agency. This led to further more detailed work to examine the current links with local authorities on food law enforcement and how these links could be strengthened. In particular, work has focussed on two key aspects of the Agency's relationship with local authority enforcement, namely the setting and monitoring of enforcement standards and the development of a national scheme to audit local authority food law enforcement work. The necessary components to form this accountability framework have been identified as:
a service (business) planning processes operating in a structured and consistent way in all local authorities;
enforcement standards setting out key aspects of enforcement responsibility arising from legislation, Food Safety Act Codes of Practice and other centrally issued guidance;
an enhanced enforcement monitoring scheme providing quantitative information on activity, including, where appropriate, outcomes of that activity; and
an audit scheme providing in depth qualitative information on enforcement activity.
Comments are required no later than 3 July.