Allergen laws lead to huge jump in enforcement actions

The Food Standards Agency issued written warnings to nearly twice as many businesses in 2014/15 compared to the previous year.

Enforcement data published by the FSA shows that 23,056 establishments were subject to some form of food standards warning last year – an increase of almost 59% (14,539).

The FSA suggested the jump was likely related to written warnings in relation to the EU Food Information for Consumers Regulation, introduced in December 2014. “Our intelligence suggests these increases in the past year may primarily be due to actions following changes in the food allergen labelling regulations,” the FSA noted in its annual report, published this week.

The report, which provides an annual breakdown of food law enforcement, also showed there were 191,719 enforcement actions in 2014/15, up 5.4% on the year before.

Food hygiene enforcement actions, for example, increased by 0.8% to 168,663, but formal food hygiene enforcement actions fell by 7% to 6,634. Some 93.5% of businesses with a hygiene rating achieved “broad compliance”, up slightly on the 93% in 2013/14.

The increases in enforcement actions and higher levels of hygiene compliance have come in spite of staffing reductions as local authority budgets are squeezed, the FSA noted. Staffing levels were down 6% in 2014/15.

Sampling levels also continue to decline. In all, 67,165 samples were taken for analysis in 2014/15, compared to 68,471 in 2013/14. The 3.7% decline is probably down to a “relaxation” in the activity following the horsemeat scandal, the FSA concluded.

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