New Which? analysis has revealed the best and worst areas of the UK for food hygiene standards, as under-resourced local authorities struggle at the same time as a rise in complaints about food standards and hygiene.
Using data from the 2016/17 Local Authority Monitoring System (LAEMS), collected by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), Which? analysed and ranked 390 local authorities across the UK using the following criteria: percentage of high and medium-risk food businesses compliant with food hygiene standards; percentage of food premises opened but not visited or rated for risk; and interventions required that have been carried out.
Birmingham City Council and Hyndburn Borough Council were ranked as the worst areas for food hygiene enforcement for the second year running.
Birmingham had a poor record for carrying out inspections within 28 days of a food business opening, with 16 per cent of the city’s more than 8,000 food businesses yet to be rated. 43 per cent of Birmingham’s high and medium-risk food businesses didn’t meet food compliance standards.
The Lancashire borough of Hyndburn, where Accrington is the biggest town, was the second worst area in the UK for food hygiene in 2016/17. Whilst 98 per cent of its businesses had been rated for risk, just two in five of its medium and high-risk food businesses met food hygiene standards, compared with 98 per cent in Harrogate, which is about an hour away in North Yorkshire.
Coming out at the top of the table for food hygiene for a second year was Erewash Borough Council, in East Derbyshire. It carried out planned interventions on all failing premises, and an impressive 97 per cent of its medium and high-risk establishments are compliant with hygiene standards.
Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, in Hampshire, came in a close second, with 96 per cent of medium and high-risk premises meeting food compliance standards and 99 per cent of food businesses inspected and rated for risk.
Three Rivers District Council, in Hertfordshire, saw the biggest improvement between our 2015/16 and 2016/17 investigations. It jumped into the top 100 after being ranked among the worst 25 per cent of areas in the previous analysis.
Responsibility for enforcing food safety falls to Environmental Health teams within local authorities, overseen by the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland.
However, this research shows many local authorities are struggling to meet their responsibilities and Which? has concerns about their ongoing ability to do this as Brexit threatens to increase their workload keeping track of food standards.
With Brexit on the horizon, the Government is under pressure to safeguard current food standards, as it will need to step up checks on imports and potentially look to negotiate trade deals with countries with lower food standards.
Alex Neill, Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said:
“When it comes to food, British consumers expect the very best standards for themselves and their families.
“But our enforcement regime is under huge strain, just as Brexit threatens to add to the responsibilities of struggling local authorities.
“Effective food enforcement must be a Government priority, including robust checks on imports as well as co-operation with the EU and other countries on food risks”.