How well are Flintshire County Council enforcing food safety? Not so good according to a consumer ‘watchdog’
Flintshire County Council`s ability to enforce food hygiene regulations has come under scrutiny following research by consumer watchdog Which? who have ranked the authority in the bottom 10% of councils in the UK, and the second worst council in Wales.
Which? carried out an investigation revealing that, a year on from the horsemeat scandal, there’s a huge variation in the levels of food standards nationally, with some authorities struggling to ensure their local businesses comply with hygiene rules.
Which? looked at 395 local authorities in the UK and, using some of the latest data submitted to the Food Standards Agency (FSA), ranked how they in performing food hygiene inspections, Flintshire came out at 361st out of 395.
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All businesses preparing or serving food have to comply with hygiene standards and those inspected include factories that make ready meals, supermarkets, hospitals, care homes, restaurants, schools and takeaways.
Council inspectors carry out routine inspections, or they might visit because of a complaint, the frequency of inspections inspections depends on the type of business and its previous record.
Some premises may be inspected at least every six months, others much less often, the greater the risk the greater the frequency of visits.
The hygiene risk of a business is based on several factors, including type of food, the number/type of consumers at risk, method of processing or handling food and confidence in the management.
Which? rated each council on the following criteria:
1: The percentage of high- and medium-risk food businesses in the area that are compliant with food hygiene requirements. This reflects whether local authorities are fulfilling their role of ensuring establishments comply with hygiene rules.
2: The percentage of premises that have opened but have not yet been visited and given a risk rating. This reflects how well councils can keep on top of new businesses opening in their area.
3: The proportion of food hygiene inspections and other follow-ups that were required but not carried out by inspectors. This reflects the extent to which local authorities are pro-actively trying to make sure that businesses that are not complying with the requirements improve their standards.
According to the Which? report Flintshire Inspectors fall well behind the rest of Wales with ‘interventions achieved’ criteria #3.
Those interventions would be revisits to business`s that have been rated 2 or below and would be deemed high risk for example, the FSA latest data show that many haven’t had a revisit with 6 months.
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In Flintshire there are around 50 pubs, restaurants and take away`s classed as a risk.
One popular Shotton take away had its last inspection on 4th February 2013, it was rated as 2 with poor food hygiene and a lack in confidence in management, with no revisit in the 11 months since the last inspection, leaving customer exposed to the perceived risks noted in the initial February 2013 inspection.
There FSA website states
“The time between inspections varies from six months for the highest risk business to two years for lower risk businesses. For some very low risk businesses, the interval between inspections may be greater than this”
The director of the Institute for Global Food Security at Queen’s University, Belfast, Professor Chris Elliott said:
“I think what the Which? report is indicating very clearly is that, because of the pressures that are on local authorities in relation to budget cuts, they are finding it very difficult to deliver the quality of service that is required.
*Ten councils were not included in the ranking because full data was not available for them.