FSA issues advice on hygiene inspections post-lockdown
The Food Standards Agency has issued advice for local authorities to continue prioritising high-risk food businesses in the wake of the coronavirus lock-down period.
Following the UK’s period of lockdown during the coronavirus outbreak, local authorities were tasked with addressing health and safety checks against an altered landscape. Many food establishments were incentivised to adapt their businesses to cope with the restrictions of social distancing, and necessary checks to ensure safe practice are therefore a priority.
Given this, the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) has issued further advice and guidance to local authorities on undertaking food hygiene inspections and interventions. Local authorities are expected to continue to prioritise inspections of those premises that changed activities during the pandemic or reopened after prolonged closure, as well as poorly compliant and high-risk businesses. The advice applies until 31 January 2021 but will be kept under review.
Michael Jackson, the FSA’s Head of Regulatory Compliance, said: “The global spread of coronavirus has brought an unprecedented set of challenges and we are extremely grateful for the co-operation of local authorities who have continued to work hard to ensure food in the UK is safe.
“We do, however, want to ensure that local authorities continue to meet their statutory responsibilities to protect public health, and we have set out where they should be prioritising their resources. We are urging local authorities who may be unable to meet their obligations as laid down in legislation or in the advice we have issued to contact us urgently so that we can discuss what action and support is necessary to ensure appropriate public health controls are in place.”
In the initial phases of the pandemic, the FSA advised local authorities to defer planned inspections and focus their resources on urgent reactive work, such as investigating foodborne illness outbreaks, and undertaking remote assessments of poorly compliant and other high-risk businesses.
Onsite inspections resumed in July, with risk assessments ensuring that higher-risk businesses, including those that were new or changed business models during the pandemic, were inspected first. Initial remote assessment, where appropriate, can be used to identify which areas to focus on during the subsequent onsite visit. Inspections continue to take place on this basis and according to these risk categories, and the extension of this approach will facilitate effective use of resources while continuing to protect public health.