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Enforcement main driver for change

Stuart Spear08/05/2013 - 13.00

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Welsh Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
Welsh Food Hygiene Rating Scheme

New research published this week reveals that while the Welsh food hygiene-rating scheme is driving up standards the main incentive for business improvement is still local authority enforcement.

The findings published this week at the annual CIEH Wales’s public health conference comes as compulsory food hygiene scoring is to be introduced across Wales in November. The study, carried out by Ceredigion County Council and Cardiff Metropolitan University, involved interviewing 255 food businesses across Wales to find out what motivated them to improve their hygiene standards.

The study found that 40 per cent of the businesses surveyed had improved their food hygiene rating score while only 13 per cent had seen a drop in standards. The number of premises with a 0 rating had dropped from 30.9 per cent to 14.1 per cent while the number of premises getting a 4 or 5 rating increased from 8.1 per cent to 26.4 per cent.

But according to the food businesses the biggest reason for improved food hygiene remains enforcement action. Forty three per cent of businesses claim enforcement as the main driver compared to 35 per cent who said it was down to the food business operator. A small number of businesses (4 per cent) believed improvements were down to commercial considerations.

‘We are delighted with this important piece of research,’ said CIEH director for Wales Julie Barratt. ‘It reinforces a couple of important messages. Firstly, the rating scheme is clearly having a positive effect on food premises and is helping to increase food hygiene standards, which is excellent news for consumers. Secondly the research shows that enforcement action by local authority EHOs is and remains the main reason why standards in food business improve. Without robust enforcement action standards will fall and that must be a concern.’

When asked how an increased food hygiene rating impacted on business 20 per cent said it improved employee morale, while 19.5 per cent said it increased confidence in food safety. Only 6.5 per cent said it improved business.

For those businesses that suffered a decrease in their rating a lack of a food management system was cited as the main reason (72 per cent). Over half (54 per cent) of the businesses with a decreased score suffered an adverse impact on their trade. Of these 72 per cent had stopped displaying their food hygiene rating.

Emilie Elliot, student EHP at Ceredigion County Council, produced the research carried out between October 2012 and April 2013.  

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2052 days ago
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Without a stick to deal with those who cannot or will not comply in any walk of life where standards or customer expectation is to be met, those standards start to decline even where charges for the service are high. You only need to look behind the prosecutions of high profile chefs. We need to continue to push and retain the abilty to enforce, from my experience over a good number of years in, and on the outside of Local Government the implications of a visit that could result in formal action still does carry huge significance, the scores have some impact but do not influence as much as a visit. I am with Marcus where is the difference between H&S and food safety in this regard, maybe all down to profile and publicty or H&S having a less significant impact on peoples lives (according to the media and the government) unless of course you have suffered workplace injury or ill health.?

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2066 days ago
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These findings can equally be applied to health and safety regulation. During the recent National Enforcement Code consultation the TUC cited a survey of safety reps who reported that the likelihood of inspection was the main reason their employers sought to comply with health and safety requirements. Again raises the question as to how Ministers currently consider local authority health and safety regulators a burden on business whislt a food safety enforcement officer (potentually in the same business) is not considered a burden. This ideology and its evidence base in relation to harming economic growth requires revisiting.

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