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FSA Enforcement Letter (ENF/E/17/019), 9 March 2017
Summary: An update for local authorities in England on some of the FSA’s key work areas and plans for the coming months. This includes information on the FSA’s corporate priorities, UKFSS, food surveillance and sampling, training for local authority enforcement officers, Food Hygiene Rating Scheme, animal feed controls and shellfish controls.
As you are aware, FSA is in the process of transforming the current regulatory model, under the Regulating our Future (RoF) programme. We are also seeking to improve the flow of communications between the Agency and our stakeholders. There has been a lot of activity over the past few months and this note provides LA delivery partners with an update on some of our key work areas and an indication of our plans in the coming months. More detailed communications, where necessary, will follow.
FSA Corporate Priorities Heather Hancock (FSA Chair) recently announced the Agency’s corporate priorities for the next three years. These include delivering Regulating Our Future transformation and the planning for and delivery of our exit from the EU. Our priorities also include building on and improving current regulatory delivery, in our role as Central Competent Authority. We depend heavily on our relationship with LAs and other delivery partners in making this a success. As we prepare for what is potentially a period of uncertainty these priorities should assure stakeholders of our commitment to working with the professions to protect consumers.
The current UKFSS contract with our external supplier ends on 31 July 2017. Under procurement rules, we must re-tender this service. At this natural break we are looking at the effectiveness of the current system and also at options available when the contract finishes, and the impact on LAs and other system users. We have recently written out seeking views on the use and value of the current system. We want to get as full a picture of how effective and efficient the system is before making any future decisions and will inform you of progress as our thinking evolves.
LAs already undertake a wide range of sampling, providing a rich picture of the strengths and areas of risk in the food system. The FSA is developing a new surveillance strategy, with initial pilots anticipated in the coming months. The new surveillance strategy will not be ready for the coming financial year and in 2017/18 FSA will cease centrally commissioning routine food sampling. We will instead continue to work closely with the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit and with the strategic surveillance project to identify potential risks and commission focussed sampling and analysis when emerging risks arise.
Training for Local Authority officers
As you are aware, we provide training to Local Authority officers in the delivery of official controls. By December 2016, we funded around 100 training events, reaching circa 2000 LA officers. In the coming year, in response to budgetary pressures, we are looking how we can build on this foundation without traditional classroom-based courses. We will seek to improve access to on-line training modules, working with stakeholders on content to provide a more modern, digital and appropriately responsive solution for authorised officers. We will retain the ability to introduce additional training, if required, to address specific developmental needs or new areas of official controls.
We remain committed to the mandatory display of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in England. Our plans for seeking Ministerial approval are now being aligned with the timetable for our transformation of the regulatory model under the RoF programme. We are already making changes to the scheme in England to bring it closer in line with the mandatory schemes in Wales and Northern Ireland. This includes enabling LAs to use existing powers to charge for FHRS re-visits. We will write out with further detail on this. We acknowledge that any changes to legislation may take some time due to other national activities, so are seeking to do as much as we can to improve the impact and benefit of the FHRS scheme until we are in position within ROF and the wider political landscape to seek ministerial support for legislated mandatory display. We will continue to update on progress on FHRS in line with the Regulating Our Future work.
NTSB will continue to coordinate feed control activity on our behalf through their network of Regional Coordinators. Over the last 3 years, they have helped to implement and improve the delivery of official controls for feed. A review of this service in 2016 recognised the added value and made a series of recommendations to further improve the effectiveness and value for money of the arrangement and to align delivery with our thinking under the RoF programme. We are establishing a new MOU with NTSB, who will work with us on continuing this journey. We continue to work with NTSB and Regional Feed Leads to develop the new programme and we will update you as this develops.
We’ve worked with Cefas over the past few years and they have provided specialist expertise and analysis in supporting the delivery of the official controls for Shellfish. We have recently renegotiated a new arrangement to enable us to continue this partnership for another three years. We will continue to realise efficiencies in the delivery of these controls, and seek further to streamline and strengthen processes to ensure that consumers are protected.