Councils' concern at new hygiene Bill
1:34pm Thursday 22nd August 2013 in News
LOCAL authorities across Gwent are worried the Welsh Government’s new Food Hygiene Rating Bill will put even more pressure on an already struggling service.
The government says the aim of the scheme is to allow consumers to make informed choices of where to eat and encourage food businesses to improve their hygiene standards.
But trade unions are concerned food hygiene inspectors will be overwhelmed as the new law also means businesses have the right to a re-inspection within three months of making a request.
Most councils currently operate a six-month window for re-inspections.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA), together with local authorities, already operate a voluntary scheme in Wales, but the new mandatory scheme will require food businesses to prominently display their food hygiene rating stickers.
It is expected that the earliest a mandatory scheme will come into operation will be late 2013 to include a period to allow businesses time to prepare.
A spokeswoman for Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said they employ five inspectors who are already carrying out inspections, but there is already too much pressure on the service due to budget cuts.
Monmouthshire County Council's Environment Health manager, Graham Perry, said while the council welcomes the scheme as a way of improving food safety, there are concerns about the added workload it will bring.
He added: “We recognise that the scheme will put even more pressure on an already stretched service so we will want to review the impact of that over the coming months.”
At Caerphilly County Borough Council, there are currently six full-time equivalent members of staff who deal with food hygiene.
A spokeswoman for the council said: "While we of course welcome initiatives which aim to raise standards in relation to food hygiene across our county borough, we will need to consider the impact upon the resourcing required to cater for the introduction of this new legislation."
Concerns were also raised by Torfaen Council. A spokeswoman said: “We welcome the new legislation as it highlights the work the environmental health officers do, however, it could add additional pressure and strain that officers are already under. We will make every effort to comply with the requirements although it could have an effect on other work that the officers do on a daily basis.”
Newport City Council also welcomed the proposals, although they also admit the added workload might be an issue.
A spokesperson for the council said: “There could be resource implications for the local authority depending on the number of requests from businesses that do not score highly to be revisited but all possible resources will be made available. However, anything which drives up food standards is a positive thing and welcomed by Newport City Council.”
Councillor Gail Giles, cabinet member for licensing and statutory functions, added: “The food hygiene rating scheme is a positive initiative. It allows good food businesses to be recognised and will encourage those that do not rate highly to aspire to achieving the higher ratings.
“It also makes it easier for citizens to make an informed choice about where to eat.”
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