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.



8.1 EU legislation placed Member States under an obligation to enforce food and feed law and to ensure compliance. They are to designate competent authorities for the purposes of official controls, and these competent authorities are required to have internal audits or external audits carried out. The FSA, as representative of the UK as Member State, provides assurance to the European Commission of delivery of official controls in the UK.

8.2 An audit team at FSAS audits the delivery of official controls by local authorities in Scotland. This provides assurance of delivery of official controls in Scotland. Delivery of meat and shellfish official controls by FSA and FSA operations staff in Scotland is currently audited by the FSA's internal audit team based in England. The new food body could expand upon the current audit capability of FSAS in order to carry out parallel internal audit of any aspect of the new food body's operation, including the Scottish meat and shellfish operations functions and any additional operational or enforcement functions that the new body might take on.

8.3 The consultation asked:

Question 12: Do you have any views on how the new food body should assure delivery of official controls and meet the relevant EU obligations? Please give reasons.

8.4 Sixty one (48%) of the 126 respondents addressed this question with many emphasising that robust audit processes will be pivotal to the successful assurance of official controls under the new food body.

8.5 The most common view expressed (18 mentions including 17 local authorities) was for the new food body to prepare a Scottish Framework Agreement, similar to that which already exists, which is binding on organisations delivering official controls.

8.6 Sixteen respondents from a range of sectors argued for the retention or/and enhancement of the current audit arrangements, with four requesting that these are formalised.

8.7 Calls were made by 15 respondents (including 13 local authorities) for the existing Food Law Code of Practice and Practice Guidance to be revised to detail the delivery of official controls.

8.8 Fourteen respondents (including 13 local authorities) considered that given concerns relating to workforce planning, the new food body may find benefit in establishing Service Level Agreements with local authorities to have assurance that official controls will be delivered adequately and consistently across Scotland. Four local authorities suggested that the new food body works with COSLA on the workforce planning arrangements suggested in Audit Scotland's report on "Protecting Consumers".

Other suggestions for assurance on meeting EU obligations

8.9 Other suggestions included:

  • Resources need to be in place to support the delivery of official controls (10 mentions).
  • Audit staff should be expert, with external experts co-opted onto the audit team where they are auditing specialist systems (Ind, Ind, PB).
  • The staff carrying out controls should be of high quality (Prof A&U, LA, LA).
  • Close liaison is required between the new food body and the FSA and the EU (IRB, IRB, Bus).
  • Resources should be adequate to support official food control laboratory work (Acad, Prof A&U).
  • The new food body needs to provide the necessary information to help companies comply with EU legislation (IRB, IRB).
  • There should be an appropriate risk-based programme of inspection and sampling (IRB, IRB).
  • Work closely with Trade Associations as they provide a useful link to smaller producers/retailers (Acad).
  • The new food body could hold centrally the Register of Food Businesses (LA).
  • It is the Scottish Government's role to ensure that EU obligations are met, advised by the new food body (Acad).


8.10 A number of concerns were raised in connection with audit procedures. Most frequently raised (6 mentions from several sectors) were those over ensuring independence of the audit and transparency in the process. Two respondents (LA, Ind) questioned how the issue of independence of audit will be addressed once the new food body takes over direct delivery of official controls. Two others (Ind, PB) suggested that audit findings are made publicly available to aid transparency. One suggestion (Bus) was for a dedicated, separate, Scottish "verification team".

8.11 The relationship between audit procedures in Scotland and those elsewhere was raised, with one respondent (Ind) suggesting that it may be challenging for the new food body as the FSA will remain the relevant competent national authority in dealing with the EU. Two respondents (Prof A&U, IRB) expressed concern that the new food body may duplicate efforts of the FSA in its auditing functions.

8.12 One respondent (Ind) considered that by strengthening standards of food safety by local authorities, other aspects of their environmental health remit could be weakened.

8.13 One academic cautioned against disadvantaging Scottish businesses in the establishment of new audit procedures, and recommended consistency of approach with auditing approaches across the EU.

8.14 The Society of Chief Officers of Trading Standards in Scotland urged the new food body:

"to consider ways other than the setting of overly bureaucratic systems/standards and formal audit, by which to achieve the assurances that the European Commission seeks".

According to this respondent, the current system of audit process represents a waste of resources, and focuses too much on process and input/outputs rather than delivering outcomes which can make a real difference to the integrity of the food chain.


Email: Karen McCallum-Smith

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