A Healthier Scotland: Creating a New Food Body: Consultation Analysis

Full report of the analysis of the written responses to the Scottish Government consultation on the role and remit of the proposed new food body.



7.1 The FSAS has direct responsibility for the delivery of official controls in approved fresh meat establishments. Official controls at other food and feed establishments and at ports are delivered by local authorities. It has been suggested that official controls currently delivered by local authorities could be delivered directly by the new food body, or that control of delivery could be centralised. An alternative suggestion was for the new food body to take on direct responsibility only for certain official controls and functions currently delivered by local authorities. The consultation document presented a number of suggestions for changes to the delivery of official food and feed controls.

7.2 The consultation asked:

Question 11: Please tell us your views about these suggestions for changes to the delivery of official food and feed controls. Do you think that the new food body should work in a different way with local authorities? Please give reasons.

7.3 Sixty five (52%) of the 126 respondents addressed this question. Overall the submissions contained a mixture of general comments about balance of controls, more specific comments on the proposals outlined in the consultation paper, and references to comments provided previously in relation to other related questions. Many responses were very detailed, with lengthy, in-depth commentary on precise topics and control arrangements. The analysis below summarises the broad, key themes raised.

Views on whether the new food body should work in a different way with local authorities

7.4 A common cross-sector view was that the existing partnership between local authorities and the FSA works well and should provide a building block on which to develop the partnership between local authorities and the new food body. Five respondents called for closer working between them to help to address what was seen as inconsistent interpretation of food legislation by different Scottish local authorities.

Views on overall balance of controls between local authorities and the new food body

7.5 The consultation raised the issue of changing the balance of responsibility for controls between local authorities and the new food body. Whilst the model of having one single, centralised enforcement body was viewed by some as attractive in its simplicity and potential consistency, concerns were raised over loss of local knowledge, expertise and good practice should this proceed. One respondent's comments summed up the considerations involved:

"The issue of changes to the delivery of food and feed controls is potentially a complex one. It could be argued that a national body responsible for the delivery of all food and feed controls would bring with it certain economies of scale, national consistency and a focus on food issues. On the other hand, it is reasonable to state that local authorities currently deliver a good service with local accountability and importantly, local knowledge and long standing relationships supporting local business to achieve compliance with food safety legislation" (East Lothian Council).

7.6 A few respondents repeated their caution that centralisation of official controls should not compromise current environmental health services (Third, LA) and should be properly funded (Third, Cons, IRB).

7.7 Five respondents supported the proposition that flexibility be built into the legislation to allow the transfer of enforcement responsibility between local authorities and the new food body where both parties agree that official controls at a particular establishment or class of establishments, would be better delivered by one or other body according to local needs and circumstances. One stated:

"The flexible approach outlined... seems more practical to implement than having a major re-shuffle of responsibilities between the new food body and local authorities, particularly if removal of functions could threaten the on-going existence of that local expertise" (Quality Meat Scotland).

Views on specific suggestions for delivery of official food and feed controls outlined in the consultation

Proposal: The new food body takes on approval of those food and feed establishments that require approval under EU food hygiene legislation (Regulation (EC) No 853/2004) and all processes for the suspension or withdrawal of those approvals. Official controls other than approval or the suspension or withdrawal of approval would remain with local authorities. Responsibility for enforcement action relating to operation of an unapproved establishment requiring approval would rest with the new food body.

7.8 Of the 14 respondents who provided a clear view on whether or not they supported this proposal, 10 respondents from a range of sectors agreed with it, and four were clearly opposed.

7.9 Those who supported the proposal considered that it would ensure greater consistency in the approval process. They also commented that this would remove what they perceived to be a current anomaly whereby local authorities deal with unapproved establishments even though they are not responsible for enforcement once the establishment is approved.

7.10 Four local authorities expressed clear opposition to the proposal. Concerns were raised over whether a remote, centralised body could provide a similar level of service to that currently available to businesses in remote areas of Scotland. Opponents also questioned the rationale of having different sets of officers dealing with approval and on-going enforcement and liaison respectively.

7.11 If the proposal is implemented, respondents requested that it be well resourced and staffed with competent, suitably qualified personnel, who will work closely with local authorities over practical details. Calls were made for arrangements to be put in place for new applications to be processed efficiently so as not to hold up the development of new food enterprises (LA, IRB).

Proposal: Where the new food body is the designated food authority for an approved establishment (such as slaughterhouses and meat cutting establishments), it should be responsible for official controls for all food commodities at the establishment and all official controls including those for food standards.

7.12 Sixteen respondents commented on this proposal, 13 of them local authorities. The overarching view was that food standards should be delivered by the new food body where they also deliver food hygiene official controls. Two key reasons were provided to support this view:

  • removes an area of dual enforcement
  • enables a greater degree of clarity for businesses.

7.13 One overriding concern was that if implemented, the new food body will need to ensure that the expertise of enforcement officers is maintained through qualifications, training and experience.

7.14 One respondent (LA) suggested that these functions be retained by local authorities unless there is clear evidence that the new food body can undertake them more efficiently and effectively.

Proposal: The new food body undertakes coordination of export certification and liaison with third countries.

7.15 All 12 respondents (10 of them local authorities) who provided a clear view agreed that the new food body should take on this coordinating role, with actual delivery remaining with local authorities. An industry representative body recommended that the new food body be encouraged to redesign the way in which export certification is supported, minimising cost and bureaucracy whilst still meeting the requirements of the third countries involved.

Proposal: The new food body undertakes import controls at ports of entry, including local authority controlled Border Inspection Posts and Designated Points of Entry.

7.16 There were mixed views on this proposal amongst the 12 respondents who commented. Whilst one local authority supported it as a means to providing greater consistency and efficiency, others expressed concerns over the impact it could have on the local authorities involved. Removing this function from local authorities was seen as potentially jeopardising the current holistic nature of environmental health services which was viewed as running contrary to the Scottish Government's Better Regulation Agenda. One local authority stated that they saw no good reason to remove this function from local delivery. A recurring view (8 mentions) was that import controls at ports of entry could be an area where the proposed flexibility could be applied to transfer enforcement responsibility from the new food body to appropriate local authorities.

Proposal: The new food body undertakes the delivery of official controls relating to animal feed hygiene and standards.

7.17 Whilst two respondents (Prof A&U, LA) supported this proposal, largely on the grounds that as only a small proportion of local authority officer time is spent on these controls, there may be merit in centralising the function, others (seven local authorities) expressed caution. For them, the proposal was attractive in potentially creating a single enforcement organisation for the farming industry regarding food and feed, but wider considerations included the possible adverse impact this could have on the delivery of overall trading standard functions by local authorities.

Proposal: The new food body undertakes the delivery of all official controls and related monitoring activity during primary production, including farming (including milk production holdings), game larders, fishing and aquaculture. Consideration could also be given to first landings of fish at markets.

7.18 Seven respondents (including five local authorities) clearly supported the proposal largely on the basis of:

  • provides for economies of scale
  • creates a single enforcement authority for the primary food production sector
  • consistent with the Scottish Government and Rural Services Project
  • addresses gaps in the current arrangements.

7.19 Three local authorities cautioned that the proposal should not jeopardise the delivery of wider environmental health functions by local authorities. It was suggested (LA, LA) that this could be an area where a flexible transfer approach to the enforcement role between the new food body and appropriate local authorities could be implemented.

7.20 Two local authorities expressed concern that if the new food body undertakes fish inspection then this would alter the current position in which one authority (local authorities) are responsible for food safety and standards.

Proposal: The new food body undertakes the delivery of official controls relating to the supply and manufacture of materials and articles in contact with food, food additives and processing aids.

7.21 All 11 respondents (including nine local authorities) who provided a view supported the proposal. The main reasons for support were:

  • improves consistency of delivery
  • addresses gaps in provision
  • ensures effective delivery of official controls in this area.

Proposal: The new food body takes responsibility for the recognition of natural mineral water sources.

7.22 Eight local authorities supported this proposal. Their reasons were:

  • aids consistency of delivery
  • addresses gaps in provision.

7.23 Two respondents called for flexibility to remain to ensure appropriate use is made of local authorities' expertise and local resources.

Proposal: The FSA currently develops technical and professional training of authorised officers whether they are employees of the FSA or of the local authorities. However, in addition, the new food body could, if resourced appropriately, also provide specialist advice to local authorities on food science, food technology and veterinary matters.

7.24 Twelve respondents (including nine local authorities) supported this proposal. A recurring view was that potential existed for the new food body to establish a similar role in relation to training as had been developed by the Health and Safety Executive in providing specialist support to local authorities on occupational health and safety enforcement. One individual respondent suggested that training could be provided by the new food body in partnership with Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh.

Proposal: The SFELC is a group that coordinates the food law enforcement and sampling and surveillance activities of Scottish local authorities. It has been suggested that this group could be formalised through legislation as part of the setting up of the new food body.

7.25 Twelve respondents from a range of sectors commented on this proposal, with 11 finding merit in the concept of formalising the group into a body which is formally consulted by the new food body on relevant issues. Two respondents (LA, Prof A&U) emphasised there view that the independence of SFELC should not be compromised by a formal arrangement.

7.26 A recurring view (7 mentions) was that the guidance produced by SFELC would benefit from greater formal recognition, and could possibly be established as a formal Code of Practice.

7.27 One industry representative body opposed the proposal, preferring the current voluntary approach to remain.

Proposal: The new food body could support and protect food law enforcement services by strengthening audit procedures.

7.28 Four respondents from different sectors provided clear support for this proposal. Two (Cons, Prof A&U) argued that audit procedures needed to be strengthened; one public body stated that as one of the main functions of the new food body is to focus on improving the quality of services, its role in strengthening audit procedures would be advantageous.


Email: Karen McCallum-Smith

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