Working with local authorities
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) works together with local authorities to protect food consumers.
Under the Food Standards Act 1999 the Agency has a package of statutory powers to strengthen enforcement of food standards, and to ensure national objectives are delivered. The Act gives the Agency powers to:
- Set standards of performance in relation to enforcement of food law
- Monitor the performance of enforcement authorities
- Require information from local authorities relating to food law enforcement and inspect any records
- Enter local authority premises, to inspect records and take samples
- Publish information on the performance of enforcement authorities
- Make reports to individual authorities, including guidance on improving performance
- Require enforcement authorities to publish these reports and state what action they propose in response
The Act gives local enforcement officers wide powers to inspect any stage of the production, manufacturing, distribution and retail chain. Food premises are inspected at a frequency dependent upon risk. Frequency of physical inspections can vary from once every six months to once every two years. Enforcement officers also have the power to take samples of food for testing to ensure compliance with food legislation.
Local authorities have a responsibility to investigate any food complaints passed on to them by consumers.
Enforcement officers have powers to take action against a food premises which does not comply with food law. This enforcement action can range from issuing warnings and improvement or prohibition notices, to instigating prosecutions. The courts can inflict heavy penalties for non-compliance, including the closure of a business where conditions are particularly bad.
Local Government Regulation, formerly Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS), provides one link between local food enforcement and central Government, giving advice and guidance to local authorities as well as advising the FSA on food enforcment issues. See the Local Government Regulation website.
The Agency, LACORS, Local Government Association (LGA), Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), and the Northern Ireland Local Government Association (NILGA) have set out a joint statement of intent to strengthen the central/local Government partnership in relation to food regulation and food related health matters. See the 'Food Regulation Statement of Intent' agreement (pdf document).
The way the Agency works with local enforcement authorities is set out in the Framework Agreement on Local Authority Food Law Enforcement.
To strengthen and develop links between the Agency and local authorities (and consumer and business stakeholders) a group now known as the Enforcement Liaison Group (ELG) was established in May 1999. The group contributes to the development of Agency strategies to improve the effectiveness and consistency of food law enforcement. See further information on the ELG.
The Agency monitors the enforcement performance of all UK local authorities, and there is an audit scheme in place. See further information on the Agency's local authority audit scheme.
The Agency wishes to see greater transparency about standards in food businesses so that consumers can identify good and bad premises and can make an informed choice at local level, and is working with local authorities to pilot a system of 'Scores on the Doors'. This is a scheme to enable consumers to make informed choices about the places they eat through provision of information on hygiene inspections.
The Agency commissioned a Food Law Enforcement Research programme to help meet the Agency's priorities of raising standards in food businesses and protecting consumers through effective and consistent local authority enforcement. See further information on the research programme.