Focused audit of local authority management of interventions in newly registered food businesses in Wales

Last updated:
16 February 2015
This audit assesses local authorities’ management of interventions in newly registered food businesses in Wales against the requirements of the Framework Agreement on Official Feed and Food Controls by Local Authorities, the Food Law Code of Practice (Wales) and Practice Guidance.

Executive summary

All 22 local authorities in Wales had developed food law enforcement service delivery plans for 2013/14 that were generally in accordance with the service planning guidance in the Framework Agreement. All service plans included intervention programmes for the year ahead, of which more than half had considered unrated food establishments. However, most local authorities had not provided an estimate of the number, and associated resource implications of delivering interventions at newly registered businesses in the year.

The data reported by local authorities through Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System (LAEMS) confirmed that there had been a reduction in the number of unrated establishments for food hygiene and food standards across Wales, indicating that some improvements had been achieved in the way that interventions were managed and delivered.

Overall, food hygiene and food standards interventions at new businesses were being undertaken by authorised and appropriately qualified officers. An isolated case was identified in one authority where an officer who was not fully authorised to undertake food hygiene interventions at higher-risk establishments had carried out inspections of new businesses. It was also established that in a small number of local authorities, food standards inspections had been carried out by officers who did not possess the required qualifications.

Documented procedures covering the registration of food establishments had been developed by most local authorities. However, in general these procedures did not require a record to be made of the date on which the authority first became aware of a business trading, contrary to the advice contained in the FSA's 'Accurate Reporting Through LAEMS' document. Further, the majority of procedures did not make reference to the requirement within the Food Law Code of Practice to record the date of receipt on registration forms or the arrangements for their retention.

Most local authorities had indicated in their policies and/or procedures that they had a risk-based approach to managing food hygiene interventions at newly registered businesses; whereas less than half of local authorities made reference to prioritising food standards inspections at new businesses on the basis of risk. However, there was evidence that new businesses, which appeared had been deemed lower-risk, had been subject to food hygiene and food standards inspections before higher and/or medium-risk businesses by local authorities throughout Wales. It was also established, that in a number of local authorities new businesses were being risk rated for food hygiene and food standards without having been subject to a primary inspection.

The on-site audit checks at four local authorities confirmed that unannounced primary inspections were being carried out at newly registered businesses for food hygiene and food standards; but these were not generally taking place within 28 days of the date of registration or the date the food business operator indicated that they intended to start trading.

With the exception of one of the four local authorities subject to on-site audit, food hygiene inspection records of new businesses confirmed that comprehensive inspections had been carried out, risk ratings had been correctly applied and that revisits had been undertaken where appropriate. There was considerable variation in the level of detail on food standards intervention records, with only one local authority able to evidence that thorough assessments of compliance had, in the main taken place. At three of the four local authorities, food standards risk ratings had been correctly applied; and in all of the local authorities where revisits were required, these had generally been undertaken

All 22 local authorities were able to provide information to confirm that they were supplying newly registered businesses with food hygiene and food standards advice both on a proactive and reactive basis.

Overall, local authorities were unable to demonstrate that food hygiene and food standards interventions were being managed in a way that enabled them to meet the recommendations of the FSA guidance on prioritisation of inspections and internal monitoring.