FPB welcomes inspection rules rethink – Fishupdate.com

FPB welcomes inspection rules rethink Published:  31 December, 2005

A LEADING business pressure group has welcomed a decision by the Food Standards Agency to think again about introducing new ‘draconian’ powers by food inspectors which were due to come into force in England tomorrow.

The new powers would have allowed a council’s Environmental Health Officer to order the instant closure of a food business, be that a restaurant, pub or food shop, or a meat or food processing plant, without reference to a third party.

“Although breaches of public health demand the closure of a food business for hygiene or health reasons, these new powers would have been far too severe and one-sided,” said Bob Salmon, Food Adviser to the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

The FPB, which champions the cause for more than 25,000 independent firms across Britain, joined the call for the FSA to reconsider the regulation, citing worries that the new powers could be applied erroneously and lead to financial ruin for the

business concerned.

The Food Standards Agency have now accepted that there are concerns in the industry and have shelved the proposal until further discussions take place next year with stakeholders.

“We welcome this re-think by the FSA, as we feel there must be some point of immediate appeal should this situation arise,” said Mr. Salmon. “None of our members want to see rogue traders get away with flouting the regulations and selling unfit foods. They do want adequate safeguards in the application of all the new rules coming in January”.

The food industry had only until December 13 this year for consultation over the introduction of the new powers, known as “Remedial Action Notices,” as part of Food Hygiene (England) Regulation no 2, before they were due to come into force on January 1, 2006. The object of the new regulation is to enshrine into English law the provisions of recent EC food regulations and to define offences for contravention.

These new regulations would extend the power of immediate closure of a plant or business to a council environmental health officer, without reference to a magistrates court. This power has previously only been held by the Meat Hygiene Service, whose officers are usually permanently on site, supervising at a food processing firm’s premises.

Under the proposal, a firm could appeal to a Magistrate Court, but any closure order would stand until a court heard the case. There was also no provision for compensation for loss of trade in the event of a mistaken closure order by an environmental health officer.

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