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Sunday, 14 April 2013
Is it safe to eat out in Northumberland after this report ask Anita Romer
FSA raises concerns over Northumberland Council's hygiene enforcement regime
12 Apr 2013 10:41 Evening Chronicle Dave Black
Food safety watchdogs have demanded improvements in the way Northumberland County Council makes sure food premises comply with the law
Food safety watchdogs have demanded improvements in the way a council makes sure food premises comply with the law.
The Food Standards Agency uncovered “significant concerns” about how Northumberland County Council carries out hygiene enforcement in almost 4,000 food businesses.
FSA auditors called on the council to carry out a fundamental review of its services – including taking a number of urgent actions – and show how improvements could be made to ensure public safety.
The findings of the critical audit – which was carried out in October last year – included concerns about a large backlog of food businesses which were overdue inspection, inspections being carried out by unauthorised officers and poor record keeping.
They have raised questions about performance at a time when public concerns over food safety have been heightened by the horse meat crisis.
The FSA audit revealed there were about 600 lower-risk businesses in Northumberland which required assessment and intervention to make sure they continued to comply with the law. In addition, there were more than 700 registered food businesses that had yet to receive an intervention from the authority – contrary to the Food Law code of practice. Auditors were told that about 600 premises inspection records and registration details had been “lost” during the formation of the unitary authority for technical reasons, although the council later said these files had been successfully retrieved.
They found that inadequate food establishment and intervention records were being kept throughout all enforcement activities, and those that were available were frequently incomplete.
Urgent actions required following the audit included confirmation that two businesses had stopped using equipment for both raw and ready-to-eat food, and a re-assessment exercise of all overdue and unrated businesses to make sure they were not affected by the FSA’s latest guidance on e.coli.
The FSA report says: “The authority fully co-operated with the agency, taking appropriate follow-up action as required.”
A council spokeswoman said: “In response to the findings, the council took immediate action, during the course of the audit visit, to address any urgent areas of concern. To ensure long-term, full compliance with the FSA Food Law Enforcement Standard we have developed, and are currently implementing, an action plan, details of which have been supplied to the Agency and are set out within the report.”