Food law enforcement plan
2.1 Profile of Pembrokeshire
Pembrokeshire County Council was established as a Unitary Authority in April 1996, bringing together the services provided by the previous county and district councils. It is the main employer in the County with approximately 6,000 staff (December 2016 payroll).
Pembrokeshire itself is a predominately rural county with a population of 124,000. It is geographically the fifth largest county in Wales - covering an area of 1600 square kilometres. Pembrokeshire, in common with many rural areas, relies on small and micro businesses to drive the economy. 85% of businesses employ less than 10 people, with (in 2011) an average of 3.3 employees. 12% of the workforce are self-employed. Unemployment (claimant count) in Pembrokeshire stood at 3.1% in May 2022, and although levels are still low they are now at, or slightly above, those of many other Welsh local authorities.
The agricultural, food and tourism sectors are significant employers in the County and have concentrated local supply chains. Tourism has been a major source of income for Pembrokeshire for the last 160 years. This industry results in a population increase to some 230,000 people in the summer, and accounts for a significant preponderance of catering premises within the County. As at 1st April 2022 there were 2835 registered food premises in the County as recorded on the Authority’s database, and of these approximately 1843 (65%) are catering businesses.This compares to 2350 premises on our register on 1 April 2019. The number has increased significantly during the Coivd-19 period, with a number of people setting up businesses whilst furloughed from their normal jobs. Some of these new businesses will have only traded for a short period whilst people’s normal jobs were not available. However all must be followed up to see what their longer term position is. This increased number of registered premises will significantly add to the workload of the Food Team.
The main towns include the county town of Haverfordwest, Tenby, Milford Haven, Pembroke, Fishguard and St David’s. The main tourist centres tend to be within the south of the County, and the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park elsewhere. Tenby and Saundersfoot offer the greatest concentration of tourist accommodation. Milford Haven remains focused on the shipping industry, and includes fish landings in the port. The ports of Fishguard and Pembroke Dock also attract traffic en-route to Ireland and have employment based upon these ports.
2.2 Organisational Structure
Within the Authority, responsibility for food law enforcement lies with Public Protection Division, which is part of the Community Services Directorate. The Division undertakes a wide range of environmental health and trading standards functions, and is divided into two sections.
Following organisational change in 2017, the Food Safety and Standards Team now forms part of the Health and Consumer Protection Section, and is managed by the Public Protection Manager (Health and Consumer Protection). The Public Protection Department is also currently undergoing a service review to ascertain the resources needed to provide the service in the post-Covid-19 era. Due to the internal promotion of the previous Head of Public Protection, the Department has currently been placed under a combined Head of Public Protection and Housing Services, who is leading the review, with the two Public Protection Managers.
The food safety and hygiene functions (traditionally enforced by Environmental Health Officers) and food standards enforcement functions (traditionally enforced by Trading Standards Officers) have been integrated within the Authority, providing a more cohesive food law enforcement service. While a limited number of health and safety at work matters may be considered/advised upon during food premises inspections, health and safety regulation is generally carried out by the specialised Health and Safety Regulatory Team. The degree of integration of these service areas is kept under review to take full advantage of the synergies that exist and to ensure that the services are provided as efficiently and effectively as possible. As a result, infectious disease investigations are carried out by the Health and Safety Team as of 1st April 2017, with involvement by the Food Team at an early stage where food premises may be implicated.
However, the Public Protection Manager (Health and Consumer Protection) holds lead responsibility for communicable disease control, which spans the work of three of the Section’s teams. The Lead Environmental Health Officer (Food Safety) within the Food Safety and Standards Team holds lead responsibility for food safety and hygiene matters and for managing one of two area teams. When fully staffed, the Lead EHO (Food Safety) is supported by a Senior Environmental Health Officer, who assists in the role of monitoring service quality, consistency and effectiveness for the Team’s 6 other operational staff (4 part-time). The Lead Environmental Health Officer (Food Standards) within the Food Safety and Standards Team holds lead responsibility for food standards enforcement and when fully staffed manages the second area team of 5 officers (3 part- time). The Lead Trading Standards Officer (Food Standards) is similarly supported by a Senior Environmental Health Officer.
During the Covid-19 period, the Team suffered a number of retirements, one officer on maternity leave, and secondments, including the Lead Trading Standards Officer (Food Standards), and secondments to the Private Sector Housing Team and the Test Trace Protect Service created within Pembrokeshire to undertake contact tracing of persons with Covid-19 and their contacts, and also to investigate incidents and clusters of the infection in high risk settings such as care homes, and other high risk locations such as schools and workplaces. Replacements have been sought where possible, but the Team currently still carries vacancies. It is anticipated that further recruitment will take place during the year, to bolster the capacity in the Food team, to implement the FSA LA Recovery Plan.
The Lead Environmental Health Officer (Port Health), responsible for the day-to-day management of the Port Health Team, maintains a close working relationship with the Lead EHO (Food Safety) and Lead
Environmental Health Officer (Food Standards) within the Food Safety and Standards Team, in relation to food safety and standards activities, thereby ensuring consistency across the County. The Port Health Team is also responsible for all shellfish sampling activities, which are detailed in the Port Health Service Plan.
The two Senior Environmental Health Officers also have specialist responsibilities for ‘approved’ meat and meat products establishments and milk and milk products establishments, both of which are particularly technical in nature and covered by specific requirements and guidance. The Lead Environmental Health Officer (Port Health) has specialist responsibility for the local shellfish industry, including the sampling programmes, and for the inspection, approval and enforcement in respect of approved fishery establishments and vessels.
A significant number of officers work on a part-time basis.
Administrative support is provided to the Section by one full-time and one part-time Technical Support Assistants, with further input from the Division’s System’s Collator, who is responsible for the production of statistical information required for statutory returns, and performance reports needed to facilitate the management of the Service. These members of staff are based in the Division’s Business Unit.
Responsibility for animal feedingstuffs enforcement was transferred to the Division’s Animal Health Team in 2006. This transfer was agreed following the introduction of EC Regulation 183/2005, laying down requirements for feed hygiene, on the 1st January 2006. This legislation meant that animal feedingstuffs provisions would apply to a much wider range of premises than was previously the case, requiring a more comprehensive programme of inspections. Having regard to the recommendations of the Hampton Report and intentions of the Local Better Regulation Office (now the Office for Product Safety and Standards), it was considered appropriate to integrate these animal feedingstuffs visits with those made for animal health purposes, thereby avoiding an excessive number of different visits to farms. This work is covered by a separate service plan, which also covers the enforcement of food hygiene on farms that are primarily involved in primary production, which is again undertaken by the Division’s Animal Health Team. As of March 2017 the Animal Health Team is also part of the Health and Consumer Protection Section - see organisation chart (Appendix 1), and is managed by the Public Protection Manager (Health and Consumer Protection).
In April 2019 the Food Safety and Standards Team relocated from Cherry Grove in Haverfordwest and are now based at:
Thornton Industrial Estate
Telephone no. (01437) 775631
Since 2008-09, the Service has operated a flexible working scheme between the hours of 7.00 a.m. and 10.00 p.m., Monday to Friday, this being more compatible with the operating hours of certain food businesses. Guaranteed cover is available between the hours of 09:00 and 17:00 Monday to Friday.
Officers occasionally work outside these hours where required, in particular to allow for the inspection of businesses/events that operate/take place over the weekend. All officers have laptops and may work at various locations across the County as well as their office base.
Since 1st April 2013 the food safety and communicable disease functions have been covered by a guaranteed ‘emergency’ response service outside normal office hours. This service is manned by officers qualified in food law enforcement based within the Port Health Team who are also based at Thornton Industrial Estate, having relocated from Milford Haven Town Hall.
Telephone no. (01437) 776390
The Port Health Team operates a shift system with standby arrangements in place for emergencies - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the year. From the start of 2017-18, responsibility for following up initial notifications or allegations of infectious disease (including possible food poisoning), and for leading on infectious disease control in general, were transferred to the Section’s Health and Safety Team, with incidents being investigated , in consultation with one of the Council’s appointed Proper Officers based with the Mid and West Wales Health Protection Team (part of Public Health Wales), Matrix House, Northern Boulevard, Swansea Enterprise Park Swansea SA6 8DP. Cover is provided by Proper Officers operating from other locations. The role of all Proper Officers was extended to include medical officer responsibilities for port health during 2009-10, following a national review of and improvements to medical officer arrangements by the then National Public Health Service (now Public Health Wales). Food-related infectious disease incidents, linked to food business operations, are investigated by the Food Safety and Standards Team
Advice on food microbiology and sampling is provided by the Food Examiner, employed by Public Health Wales at the Food, Water and Environmental Laboratory based at West Wales General Hospital, Carmarthen. This laboratory examines the majority of food samples collected for surveillance and enforcement purposes. A service level agreement exists that sets out the cost of services provided.
The majority of routine clinical samples, collected as part of the investigation of food poisoning/other related infectious disease, are submitted to the laboratory at Withybush General Hospital, Haverfordwest.
During 2011-12, following a tender exercise led by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Procurement Division on behalf of the Welsh Purchasing Consortium, Pembrokeshire County Council appointed Public Analyst Scientific Services Limited (PASS), Woodthorne, Valiant Way, and Wolverhampton as its preferred Public Analyst, in place of its former provider. Food standards samples have subsequently been analysed by this provider. The contract was re-awarded in July 2016.