ACT NOW: Sign online petition against ‘full cost recovery’ charges for EHO inspections
The Guild of Fine Food is urging all food businesses to sign an online petition today against planned EU rules that would allow local authorities to charge food firms for hygiene inspections with “full cost recovery”.
In February last year the European Commission proposed that public bodies should be allowed to make a charge every time an official visited food premises to check hygiene practices.
It could mean unexpected bills of £500 for small shops or artisan food producers every time they receive a random inspection.
After lobbying on behalf of small businesses by Bob Salmon of Food Solutions, officials at the European Commission’s public health directorate, DG Sanco, agreed an exemption for businesses with fewer than 10 employees or annual sales below €2 million.
But according to Salmon, this exemption was quietly deleted from the proposed rules by MEPs on the ENVI environmental, public health and food safety committee last week.
With the European Parliament due to vote on the issue next Monday, April 14th, the move effectively leaves no time for further consultation.
Salmon said the move was political, rather than bureaucratic. “The EC officials listened to what we had to say, and were fine about the exemption. This is just about money-making. There are MEPs on the committee who come under a lot of pressure from their member states.”
Food Solutions has posted a petition online, urging British MEPs Bill Newton Dunn and Glenis Willmott to demand that the exemption for micro-businesses is reinstated. The petition results will be compiled and sent on to the MEPs later this week.
Guild of Fine Food managing director John Farrand said: “This rule could affect 90% of Guild member businesses, as well as thousands of others around the UK, and we’re appalled at the way ENVI dropped the exemption for small businesses at the last minute.
“With the majority of food businesses falling into the micro-business category, this will be seen by local authorities as a licence to print money.”
The Guild will be writing to its local MEPs this week and asking its members UK-wide to follow suit.
The Food Standards Agency’s official position has been that it should have “discretion to determine where, when and how to introduce charging” for health inspections. But the proposed EU ruling would allow local authorities to push ahead with charges regardless.
Salmon said: “Can you imagine any local council not charging what they like? ‘Full cost recovery’ could mean anything from the time of the visit to a contribution towards new council offices.”