Concern for small businesses as FSA publishes food safety regime
Thousands of independent food businesses could be forced to close due to the costs and administrative burdens of a new food hygiene regime that will be phased in by 2020, a food safety expert has warned.
The measures in the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) recently published Regulating our Future document include the introduction of paid-for inspections carried out by private companies and the end of a one-size-fits-all approach to assessments.
According to food safety lobbyist Food Solutions, some of the proposals favour the multiples and large manufacturers with head office processes over smaller operations with less cash and technical expertise.
Food Solutions director Bob Salmon told FFD that potentially thousands of small businesses could close rather than face the extra costs and burden.
Salmon said food businesses had effectively already paid for food inspections through their business rates. He is also concerned about the costs of an “enhanced registration” scheme and eventually a planned Permit to Trade scheme that might require regular renewal.
Nina Purcell, the FSA director leading the Regulating our Future campaign, told FFD the FSA had not yet started to work on the detail of costs in the new system.
“What we do know is that businesses should meet the costs of regulation, but the costs should be no more than they need to be and be proportionate to the type of business.”
Purcell said the FSA recognised many small firms required support to help them comply with food law, particularly at start up, and it intended to ensure they could access this support “easily and consistently”.
“Our regulatory reform programme recognises that businesses come in many different shapes and sizes,” she said. “Our aim is to design a tailored and proportionate system of regulation that reflects relative risk, reinforces accountability and delivers more for public health.”
Among the proposals drawn up by the FSA are a “risk-management framework” that will determine the nature, frequency and depth of inspections and controls.
This is another measure that Food Solutions says will punish smaller businesses.
All traders will have to comply with “enhanced registration” of their business before setting up shop and everyone will ultimately be required to have a Permit to Trade before they start producing, selling or serving food, pending legislation.
Enforcers could also make use of fixed penalty notices to incentivise “the right behaviour” among food business owners.