Rebecca Evans Minister for Social Services and Public Health
The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) programme of work entitled “Regulating our Future” sets out the FSA’s proposals for a new sustainable and effective regulatory system with the aim of ensuring that businesses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland meet their responsibilities in producing food that is safe, and is what it says it is. The FSA’s intention is that the new regulatory programme will redefine how it will obtain assurances that businesses are doing the right thing for consumers. With this in mind the FSA further intends to design a new regulatory framework that is dynamic enough to keep pace with innovations across the food sector and embrace new technologies, and flexible enough to be able to adapt to future circumstances, such as the new relationship that will be required with the European Union. The FSA’s website provides further information on this programme of work
The FSA’s work remit impacts upon a number of ministerial portfolios, promoting frequent interactions with officials across the Welsh Government, in particular with the departments that support me, as Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, and Prof Mark Drakeford AM, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government. We have considered the proposals as they currently stand within the “Regulating our Future” programme of work and in response have developed a Welsh Government Position Statement. The Statement which was considered and agreed by me and my Ministerial colleagues and issued to the FSA on 13 December 2016 is set out below for your information. This Position Statement is intended to provide the FSA in Wales with clarity on the Welsh Government’s position as they continue to develop their proposals.
Welsh Government Position Statement in Response to The Food Standards Agency’s Regulating our Future (RoF) Proposals
- When proposing change to the current food safety system the FSA should give primary consideration to its main statutory objective of protecting public health from risks which may arise in connection with the consumption of food, and otherwise to protect the interests of consumers in relation to food.
- The Welsh Government would like the FSA, as part of the Regulating our Future programme of work, to explore and advise the Welsh Government on the possibility of introducing an enhanced system of registration or licensing that would require prior approval rather than a right of registration for all food businesses. In doing so, the FSA should consider the scope for charging applicants a fee to recover the costs incurred, or expected to be incurred, in undertaking official controls.
- Welsh Government’s preference is for continued independent, consistent local authority food hygiene inspections to be prioritised and maintained at appropriate levels.
- The Welsh Government acknowledges that there is benefit in accreditation and third party audits to improve businesses’ compliance, and their ability to supply other food businesses with manufactured food products. Accreditations and third party audits could be used by local authorities evidentially when determining levels of compliance, risk-rating and intervention frequency. They should not be seen as replacing the need for independent food safety auditing by a local authority.
- The statutory Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) has been highly successful in raising food hygiene standards of food businesses in Wales. Consumers and businesses have confidence in the independent consistent inspections carried out by local authorities that generate ratings. Ratings are generated as a result of intervention inspections. Welsh Government would not wish to see consumer confidence in the FHRS undermined by infrequent inspections, or inspections carried out by auditors who are not independent of the food business, or those they supply. It would also be inappropriate for food businesses to receive FHRS inspections independent of intervention inspections as this would add to the burden of auditing experienced by food businesses and would be resource intensive for both businesses and regulators. The scheme will be enhanced from November 2016 to require information about hygiene ratings to be published on certain takeaway food businesses’ hard copy leaflets and there are plans to look at publishing ratings on food businesses’ websites. This is an important and successful piece of legislation for Wales that is now being replicated in other administrations. The Welsh Government would not wish to see this system compromised by any changes brought about by “Regulating our Future”.
- The Welsh Government is open to changes that enhance food business regulation on a ‘what works’ approach to improving services across the whole of Wales. Any such improvements should be for the long term and meet the requirements of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
- The Welsh Government endorses the FSA’s objective to ensure that all food businesses fully accept, prioritise and deliver their duty to protect the consumer.
In the spirit of joint working across the Welsh Government portfolio this position statement is endorsed by Vaughan Gething AM, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, Lesley Griffiths AM, Cabinet Secretary for Environment and Rural Affairs, Prof Mark Drakeford AM, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Local Government and Rebecca Evans AM, Minister for Social Services and Public Health.