Food Law News - UK - 2011

FSA Enforcement Letter (ENF/E/11/014), 11 April 2011

ENFORCEMENT - Primary Authority Scheme: National Businesses Pilot 2011

This letter is to update you on a pilot being undertaken during 2011-12 in liaison with LBRO [Local Better Regulation Office], within the Primary Authority Scheme and its implications for local authority intervention programmes in a number of national food businesses.

LBRO have described how Primary Authority has been moving into a new phase (, where as part of a pilot, Inspection Plans are to be developed with a number of national retailers, including some Food Business Operators such as Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Moto and JD Wetherspoon to deliver ‘Earned Recognition’ where appropriate.

Within FSA, the broad aim of Earned Recognition is to reduce the type or frequency of intervention for businesses which demonstrate compliance and is a key component of the emerging FSA Compliance and Enforcement Strategy. FSA has been working with the primary authorities involved and LBRO on developing the Inspection Plan approach to ensure it is robust and evidence-based. The evidence base will make use of all appropriate sources, including information on businesses that is held by the national regulator and information from local authorities.

Inspection Plans will be uploaded to the Primary Authority database ( over the forthcoming months, to which all local authorities have access. These plans will describe the approach to be taken to the inspection of local outlets of the relevant businesses during 2011-2012 which may provide, for example, information on operation of business systems, or highlight specific areas for attention or describe a more focused inspection approach with a view to a reduction in overall inspection levels across England and Wales. The precise details and outcome of the plans will vary with each business and are still being developed.

The Annex 5 risk rating system of the current Code of Practice already allows for officers to take account of management arrangements, including in-house or independent third party audits, through the ‘confidence in management’ score. However, the weighting given to these arrangements in the current scoring is not always sufficient to provide a corresponding change in response by officers. This is something under consideration and will be addressed in the forthcoming Code of Practice review, taking account of evidence from pilots such as this.

Some business inspection plans may mean that inspections scheduled by authorities for 2011-12 may not be needed and will differ from the frequency prescribed in the Code of Practice. As this pilot is part of the evidence base for improving the national control system and delivering an improved riskbased, national approach to regulation, the FSA would ask all authorities to support the pilot initiative and any Inspection Plans agreed. The ultimate aim of the pilot is to allow greater recognition by authorities of businesses own food safety controls so that resources released can be targeted on higher risk food businesses such as new or known non-compliant businesses.

This approach will only apply to planned inspections in England and Wales. The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act, which provides for Primary Authority status, does not apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland. We envisage reactive work related to the pilot businesses, such as responding to complaints, incidents or intelligence-led interventions, would continue in line with current local authority practices. Pilot Inspection Plans would also not prevent existing local authority follow-up in premises already subject to an improvement programme of work.

A key aspect to making the Primary Authority pilot successful is the provision and circulation of information within authorities and between business and authorities. We would ask therefore, that officers provide feedback on any interactions with the businesses within scope of the pilot on the Primary Authority website.

The intention is that operation of the Primary Authority Scheme will be included within Local Authority Audits during the pilot period to help inform any outcomes.

More details will be forthcoming as the plans develop.

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