A new investigation reveals a large degree of variation in food hygiene standards across Scotland, with some authorities much better at ensuring that their local businesses are complying with hygiene rules than others.
Which? analysed 32 local authorities using data submitted to Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and ranked them based on: the proportion of medium and high risk premises meeting hygiene requirements, the proportion of total premises rated for risk, and the proportion of planned interventions (such as inspections or follow up actions) the authorities achieved.
The results of Which?’s analysis found:
- Edinburgh is ranked bottom in Scotland, and is the eighth lowest ranking local authority area in the UK. Glasgow achieved the second lowest score in the country.
- 7 local authority areas in Scotland (Aberdeen, Moray, Clackmannanshire, Falkirk, Perth and Kinross, Glasgow and Edinburgh) were ranked in the bottom ten percent across the UK.
- Just 57% of medium and high risk businesses in Falkirk met compliance levels for food safety.
- The Orkney Islands, followed by North Lanarkshire topped the table for food hygiene in Scotland and finished seventh in the UK overall.
An interactive map of the regional rankings highlights the variations.
With food production becoming ever more complex at a time when the resources of regulators and Local Authorities are under pressure, the FSA and FSS review will look at options such as tighter checks when a food business opens and how data from businesses can be used more effectively. However, Which? is concerned that proposed reforms could see a potential shift towards more inspections being carried out by third parties employed by businesses in place of checks by public authorities.
Which? is calling on the regulators to ensure that a robust food standards system is put in place that serves consumer interests and avoids any conflicts of interest.
In a landscape that is heavily underpinned by EU regulation, a comprehensive strategy for enforcement post-Brexit is needed, as the UK is likely to take on much more responsibility for checks on imported food products.
Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Services said:
“People expect their food to be safe, but there is clearly still work to be done.
“As we prepare to leave the EU, the Government and regulators need to ensure that there is a robust, independent system of enforcement in place to give people confidence that the food they’re eating is hygienic.”
Notes to eds
- Using the 2015/16 Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System (LAEMS) hygiene database collected by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), we rated 386 Local authorities in the UK.We used three indicators that we designed to compare authorities based on how many of their high or medium risk food businesses are complying with hygiene rules, as well as how pro-active the local authority is in ensuring compliance. We have therefore taken account of:
- the proportion of medium and high risk premises that are compliant
- the proportion of total premises that have been rated for risk; and
- the proportion of planned interventions (eg. inspections or follow up actions) the authority achieved.
We scored each local authority against the UK average for each of the three criteria, and then combined those scores giving 50% of the weighting to the percentage of compliant high and medium risk premises – as their main purpose is to ensure compliance – and 25% of the weighting to each of the other two criteria.
2. It is the responsibility of businesses to make sure that they are meeting hygiene standards but it’s up to local authorities to enforce compliance, and enforcement is overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland.
Which? believes a reformed and robust food standards system will require:
- a much more in-depth understanding of the hazards and risks that businesses face
- a more strategic sharing of responsibilities between the local authorities and regulators,
- implementation of stronger import and export checks post-Brexit
- creation of meaningful incentives for compliance, such as the mandatory display of Food hygiene Rating Scheme scores
- uphold the independence of the enforcement system3. Ranking of Local Authorities based on indicators for food hygiene enforcement:
4. City of Edinburgh Council response: “The City of Edinburgh Council’s Environmental Health Team robustly inspect and assess food premises, providing written advice and guidance on what they must improve in order to achieve a pass. The Council does not accept that the database was designed to rank authorities in the way suggested. Many non compliances used to achieve this ‘ranking’ are often technical in nature which in no way puts the public at risk.”