Food law enforcement plan
Achieving Business Compliance (ABC) Programme
2.6 Food Standards Agency “Achieving Business Compliance (ABC)” Programme and LA Covid-19 Recovery Plan
2.6 (i) Achieving Business Compliance
ABC is the refreshed second phase of the work started by the Regulating our Future (ROF) programme and seeks to deliver a vision for a future regulatory system, with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, that is fit for purpose and capable of managing future risks.
In March 2020, the Board agreed a forward work plan for the ABC programme, which contained three streams of activity. Work has evolved since then, and more detail is available regarding the direction of travel.
The ABC programme was established in January 2020 following a review of the ROF programme. ROF had a strong focus on reforming local authority activity and has laid robust foundations on which to build the ABC programme, which will continue with this reform, but also drive further changes in response to the changing food landscape.
Ongoing activity continues to span the two programmes and demonstrates the natural progression being made on the pathway to reform particularly in the following areas of work:
Register a Food Business
This service is an online process for all food businesses to be able to register their businesses into a single system online, and has been rolled out to 208 of 343 local authorities (60%), including Pembrokeshire who were an early adopter of the scheme in Wales. ABC will look to develop activity linked to the wider business benefits of registration.
A new competency framework has been developed to provide a single and consistent approach to defining competency by activity across all food and feed controls. This will help ensure the right resource is allocated to work.
Food Standards Model
Local authority pilots of a new intelligence-led model for organising official food standards controls began in January 2021, with seven authorities implementing the approach and a further five acting as controls. So far there has been a positive response to the flexibility provided by the new risk assessment model – this work currently sits in ABC but will move to business as usual (BAU) activity after pilot evaluation is complete.
The FSA has now outlined its vision for ABC, the planned direction of travel and ambition for delivery. The key drivers for the former ROF programme were that the Agency felt it was necessary to;
- move away from a “one-size fits all” approach to regulating food businesses;
- that the regulatory system lacked agility and was not keeping pace with technological changes in the food industry in particular due to the increased levels of online sales of food;
- that there was continued pressure on local authority resources, which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic;
- a need to implement a financially sustainable model of regulation.
To do this effectively ABC is to look at the role of regulators across the whole food system (including local authority enforcement) and consider the range of levers and interventions available, in addition to what services we could introduce, to ensure that no matter where food is sourced, consumers can be assured of its safety and authenticity. Considerations which are being looked at include possible segmentation of the retail sector, consideration of regulation of online aggregators of food (e.g. Just Eat, Deliveroo and Uber Eats etc.), and modification of the Hygiene Delivery Model of Interventions and controls, as it sees it to be most efficient to oversee the modern methods of supply of food. The regulatory framework for local authority delivery of official controls may change significantly under the ABC Programme. The Authority will continue to monitor what this may mean for the delivery of Local Delivery of Official Food Controls
2.6 (ii) Covid-19 – The FSA Local Authority Recovery Plan
As mentioned in 2.4 above, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the delivery of food controls locally and nationally since the pandemic started in early 2020, with differing impacts at different points during the period.
Consequently during the recovery of the food law enforcement services, from July 2021, whilst priority has been given to the most significant and highest risk reactive work that has occurred during the pandemic, for the reasons mentioned above and the temporary suspension of routine food inspections, there was a significant reduction in the number of inspections undertaken during the pandemic, which has resulted in a significant backlog of inspections arising. This relates to both inspections that would have been due to have taken place during the pandemic, and also the number of new food businesses that registered and started operating during this period.
In order to ensure that local authorities focus on consistent priorities and to phase in the recovery of routine official food controls based on risk, the Food Standards Agency has issued a Recovery Plan for local authorities to follow. This plan covers the period up to 31st March 2023, when the Agency anticipates that local authorities will have been able to recover the shortfall in inspections which has occurred since early 2020. Pembrokeshire, as with all other local authorities has determined the inspection demands for the coming year, based on the priorities, the different milestones itemised within the Recovery Plan.
An outline of the Recovery Plan is indicated below
The FSA Recovery Plan to 31 March 2023
In order to enable local authorities across the country to focus on the same priorities, the Food Standards Agency has introduced a Recovery Plan, with different milestones for authorities to focus their resources on the correct priorities, with greater emphasis/priority placed on the highest risk premises and the highest priority unrated premises, including those that registered during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The table below provides information on the different timescales expected and the order of priorities.
Details of Pembrokeshire’s figures for implementing the Recovery Plan are included in Section 3.2.4 below
By 30th September 2021
- Prioritisation of new businesses for intervention based on risk
- Planning of intervention programme from September 2021 onwards
By 31st March 2022
- All establishments rated Category A for hygiene to have received an onsite intervention
By 30th June 2022
- All establishments rated Category B for hygiene or A for standards to have received an onsite intervention
By 30th September 2022
- All establishments rated Category C for hygiene and less than broadly compliant to have received an onsite intervention
By 31st December 2022
- All establishments rated Category D for hygiene and less than broadly compliant to have received an onsite intervention
By 31st March 2023
- All establishments rated Category C for hygiene and broadly compliant or better to have received an onsite intervention
- New delivery models ready for implementation in 2023/24
- 30th September 2021 - 31st March 2023: Ongoing specific requirements, surveillance, enforcement and urgent reactive work
- 30th September 2021 - 31st March 2023: New and refreshed food hygiene ratings given following appropriate interventions
- 31st March 2022 - 31st March 2023: FHRS re-visits requested by businesses - in line with timescales in Brand Standards/relevant statutory guidance
Outlook for the remainder of the FSA LA Recovery Plan to 31 March 2023
Whilst the Team has been able to meet the numerical inspection target to the end of March 2022, the ongoing absences, secondments, retirements, maternity leave etc. is meaning that there is a projected shortfall in capacity for the Team for the coming year.
Calculations undertaken at the start of April indicated that at that stage due to the extent of work that the Recovery Plan requires within a very tight timescale of 31 March 2023, there is a projected shortfall in inspection capacity in the Food Team of 346 inspections, once all high risk overdue and newly registering premises through the year are considered. This is without including a further 386 new business registrations from pre 1 April 2022, which have been risk assessed as low risk. Where resources allow, further work will be undertaken on this portion of unrated businesses, to see whether they are trading.
A more detailed breakdown of the inspection requirement for 2022-23 under the FSA LA Recovery Plan is outlined in Para 3.2.4 below.
Discussions with other Welsh local authorities would indicate that others are feeling similarly pressurised, and to greater or lesser extent are experiencing similar impacts on their ability to recover that have been mentioned above, e.g. retirements, secondments, inability to fill vacancies, greater than normal levels of sickness, inspections taking longer in the recovery period due to lower compliance, as well as low staff morale.