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Food regulators to focus resources on riskiest businesses

Future food enforcement in England and Northern Ireland will be targeted at those businesses deemed most at risk of breaking the law.

The Food Standards Agency has published a revised Food Law Code of Practice for England and Northern Ireland which introduces a new model for delivering food standards controls.

The changes are designed to help local authorities take a more risk-based and intelligence-driven approach to inspection, focusing their time and resources on food businesses that pose the greatest risk to consumers.

Non-compliant businesses will face more frequent physical checks than businesses that can demonstrate good levels of sustained compliance.

The new code will also give local authorities greater flexibility over how they check for compliance, for example through carrying out remote checks where appropriate.

The changes were described as “good news for responsible businesses”, by Katie Pettifer, FSA director of strategy and regulatory compliance. “Any businesses with a good track record of compliance will face less frequent inspections, while those with a poor track record will face greater scrutiny,” she added.

The changes are designed to adapt to an evolving commercial and regulatory landscape in food. Pettifer said the FSA was “very concerned” about the decline in local authority resources for food standards work with the number of professional staff working on food standards in local authorities having halved over the last decade.

At the same time, the growth in food sold direct to the public, including via social media platforms, has made it harder for regulators to keep track of those people operating a food business.

“A combination of changes in the ways food is supplied to consumers and how local authorities approach regulation with reduced resource meant that the code of practice was no longer best suited to support food standards officers,” said David Pickering from Buckinghamshire and Surrey Council who is the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s lead officer for food issues.