Ensuring the safety of food for human consumption is a long-standing and important public-health role of the Council, delivered through the Environmental Health team.
The Council has a statutory obligation to conduct a range of food and feed enforcement functions in accordance with the provisions of the Food Safety Act 1990 and a range of regulations made under the Act. The Local Authority acts as the ‘Competent Food/Feed Authority’ as required by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the national regulator for official food and feed controls. 1
Having regard to the legislative changes as a result of leaving the European Union (EU), there have been additional functions and duties afforded to the Food/Feed Authority to oversee and enforce, in relation to maintaining the safety and integrity of the food and feed products entering and leaving the UK. Although much of the existing legislation has been temporarily retained, new legislation has been adopted to enable the continued exportation of food products of animal origin, and high-risk products not of animal origin, to the EU, as well as the trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This has resulted in many new protocols and procedures.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is an independent Government Department responsible for overseeing and working to protect public health and consumers’ wider interests in relation to food in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. As part of the national food safety framework agreement, Codes of Practice (CoP) and supporting guidance for Competent Food/Feed Authorities, are issued in order to direct Competent Authorities on how to fulfil their obligations in respect of food and feed official controls. 2
The Codes of Practice require that the Council has in place:
- a risk-based intervention programme for food hygiene, food standards and feed enforcement,
- adequate management systems and procedures for:
- the investigation of food and feed safety incidents and complaints,
- for inspecting and sampling of foods,
- for investigation of cases of food-related infectious disease and control of outbreaks, and
- for the provision of advice and guidance to food and feed businesses.
The Framework Agreement requires the Council to effectively plan the delivery of its service and to have in place a service plan setting out how the official controls will be delivered with the four main goals of ensuring:
- Food is safe
- Food is what it says it is
- Consumers can make informed choices about what to eat
- Consumers have access to an affordable diet, now and in the future
The Food and Feed Law Service Plan 2022/23 demonstrates South Tyneside Council’s commitment to fulfil statutory obligations in an effective and proportionate manner, having regard to the resources available. Work will be prioritised on a risk basis and in accordance with regulating bodies guidance on priorities, 3 with inspections targeted at high risk and poor performing businesses and alternative interventions used for low-risk businesses where possible. These interventions will include questionnaires, sampling visits, monitoring checks and audits completed by other local authority services. The Environmental Health service will endeavour to engage additional competent and duly authorised contractors and fixed-term staffing to undertake certain elements of the inspection programme, providing additional capacity to tackle the significant shortfall in food safety interventions as a result of the pandemic.
This plan aligns with many of the current priorities defined in the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Strategy and Strategic Plan 2022 – 2027 ‘Food we can Trust’, which is primarily aimed at putting the interests of consumers first, and the principles of the Government’s ‘Better Regulation’ Agenda, having regard to the Regulators’ Code 4 which regulators must follow when developing policies and procedures that guide their regulatory activities. This includes making best use of the contact the Service has with businesses in order to provide help and support to promote an open and constructive relationship and to signpost to other support networks.
To maintain and where possible improve the health and wellbeing of residents, and visitors to South Tyneside by ensuring the safe production, processing, handling, storage, distribution and sale of food/feed in the borough and deliver on the FSA’s main goals of ensuring food says what it is, enabling customers to make informed choices based on accurate and reliable information at the point of sale.
- To meet the ‘standard’ set out in the FSA ‘Framework Agreement’
- To ensure that food is safe to eat and free from extraneous matter
- To contribute to a reduction in food-borne illness by improving food safety standards throughout the food chain
- To investigate all notified cases of food-borne illness, and outbreaks of food poisoning, in order to minimise risk of spread, through education, advice and exclusion if required
- To maintain an accurate register of food businesses in South Tyneside
- To carry out food hygiene inspections in accordance with the minimum inspection frequencies and to standards determined by the Food Standards Agency
- To approve all food/feed establishments operating in the authority’s area, that are placing products of animal origin on the market, and implement a series of risk-based interventions in accordance with the FSA ‘Food Law Code of Practice’
- To keep accurate records of all food/feed safety enforcement activities and produce timely statutory returns as required by the FSA
- To improve levels of compliance with food safety law within the business community, by targeting advice and enforcement to non-compliant businesses, and through the effective use of intelligence
- To encourage standards of hygiene higher than the minimum acceptable in law by aspiring to have all food premises reach a 4 or 5 rating
- To provide consumers with information in respect of hygiene standards in food businesses across South Tyneside, thereby enabling them to make informed choices about where they purchase or eat their food.
- To improve food safety practices of businesses and consumer knowledge, through the delivery of educational and promotional activities and the provision of advice, guidance and signposting to partner agencies
- To promote honest and informative labelling of food to help consumers make informed choices regarding the food they eat
- To support business growth
- To proportionately enforce relevant legislation in accordance with the principles of ‘Better Regulation’ and having regard to South Tyneside’s Food and General Enforcement Policies
- To deal with food hazards/incidents in accordance with FSA guidance
- To implement the FSA Food Hygiene Rating Scheme for Borough-wide score ratings based on hygiene standards and adopt the Brand standard guidance governing the protocols.
- To support regulatory compliance of food-based delivery services within the Council by offering support and direction as necessary
In March 2021, South Tyneside Council set out five Community Priorities focused on delivering for the people of South Tyneside:
- Support young people in need
- Support families and older or vulnerable people
- Create the conditions for economic recovery and investment
- Support for all our town centres, villages, high-streets and hospitality
- Invest in our natural and built environment
The Council’s ‘Our Change’ Programme sets out a range of actions which will strengthen how the Council operates and delivers its priorities. The ‘12 Month Delivery Plan’ sets out the headline activities and projects that the Council will be working on from April 22 – April 23.
In particular, delivery of the Food and Feed Law Service Plan contributes to the following priorities:
Support young people in need, families and older or vulnerable people
We do this by:
- Inspecting food/feed premises in accordance with Food/Feed Law Codes of Practice guidance
- Promoting the use of ‘Safer Food Better Business’ in all food premises
- Inspecting and sampling food/feed and water to ensure its quality and safety
- Investigating complaints about food and food premises
- Investigating all reported cases of food poisoning and taking action to prevent the spread of infection
- Taking appropriate action in response to food incidents
- Promoting key food safety messages through a variety of media
Support all our town centres, villages, high-streets and hospitality
We do this by:
- Working with new businesses and event organisers to ensure that they understand and meet their statutory responsibilities before they begin to operate
- Targeting training on key food safety matters to high-risk businesses.
- Providing food hygiene guidance in languages other than English as required
- Working with new food business operators to help them understand and meet legal standards
- Offering advice and guidance as part of routine inspections
- Providing on site advisory meetings for Food Business Operators.
- Providing Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) rerating visits for Food Business Operators.
- Promoting businesses achievement (Food Hygiene Rating Scheme) through the Council’s website
- Establishing informal agreements with local businesses who export products of animal origin, to support them in their export trading arrangements following an increase in documentary and regulatory requirements thereby enabling them to maintain trade links with Europe (Export Health Certificates/Attestations)
- Supporting local businesses who export products containing products of animal origin through the issuing of Export Health Certificates to confirm they meet the import requirements of other non-European countries.
The Council’s priorities underpin the work of the Commercial Food and Safety Service and the data, intelligence and insight obtained from consumers and businesses, whilst undertaking regulatory functions, will help to inform future workplans and proactive interventions with businesses.
Profile of South Tyneside
South Tyneside is a place with a rich cultural heritage, spectacular scenery and a strong community spirit.
The borough includes the towns of South Shields, Hebburn and Jarrow and the villages of Boldon, Cleadon and Whitburn, sitting within the Tyne and Wear conurbation, with the River Tyne boundary to the North and North Sea to the East. Further information on local health profiles can be viewed at https://www.localhealth.org.uk.
The Commercial Food and Safety sits within the Council’s Environmental Health Service. All officers are directly managed by the Lead Food Officer currently, reporting to the Service Lead - Environmental Health. The Service Lead – Environmental Health reports to the Council’s Head of Environment.
|Service Lead-Environmental Health (1 x FTE)||Environmental Health Officer - responsible for overseeing all work within the team including target setting, monitoring, performance, training and development.|
|Operations Manager - Commercial Food and Safety (0.73 x FTE)||Environmental Health Officer/Lead Food Officer - responsible for service planning on food/feed hygiene, health & safety, officer competency and quality control requirements.|
|Environmental Health Officer (1 x FTE)||Responsible for the full range of food safety duties and other statutory functions allocated to the team.|
|Environmental Health Officer (0.6 FTE)||Responsible for a range of food safety duties and other statutory functions.|
|Technical Officers (Food Safety) (2 x FTE)||Undertake a full range of food safety enforcement duties.|
|Environmental Health Officer (0.5 FTE)||Responsible for enforcement of health and safety and animal health, plus a nominal number of food safety inspections to retain food hygiene competency.|
|Food Safety Officer / Regularity Officer (1 FTE)||Responsible for programmed and reactive food and water sampling – located within the Commercial Food and Safety Team.|
|Technical Officer (1 x FTE)||Temporary position to backfill maternity cover. To assist with Regulatory enforcement within the food team.|
The Food Service is responsible for all aspects of food hygiene and safety and infectious disease control. Responsibilities include:
- Food hygiene and Food Standards inspections and other interventions in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice
- Approval and inspection of food businesses handling food of animal origin covered by Regulation (EC) No 853/2004
- Maintaining a register of food business establishments
- Investigation of complaints about food and hygiene at food premises
- Microbiological food and environmental sampling
- Food sampling for compositional and labelling conformity
- Investigation of complaints concerning labelling and composition of food
- Investigation and control of sporadic cases of food poisoning and food-borne disease and other relevant infections, including the investigation and control of food poisoning outbreaks
- Imported food control, sampling and enforcement
- Issue of Export Health Certificates
- Response to Food alerts (food hazard warnings/incidents) as required
- Promotion of ‘Safer Food Better Business’
- Promotion and operation of the National Food Hygiene Rating scheme
- Examination and response to planning and licensing applications and Safety Advisory Group (SAG) consultations in relation to food premises and related food-safety activities in the Borough.
The official controls relating to feed functions, responsibilities and duties are delivered by a range of officers within the Council’s regulatory services, reporting to the Lead Feed Officer in Trading Standards. Responsibilities include:
- Feed inspections and other interventions in accordance with the Feed Law Code of Practice
- Approval and inspection of feed businesses handling feed for food animals and pets, as well as those businesses selling, processing and handling feed material for feed producing animals
- Maintaining a register of feed business establishments for which official interventions are required
- Investigation of complaints about feed and hygiene at feed premises
- Microbiological feed and environmental sampling
- Feed sampling for compositional and labelling conformity
- Investigation of complaints concerning labelling and composition of feed
- Official controls at the Port for imported feed material and products; sampling and enforcement
Areas of added value include:
- Food Safety training and advice to support our local existing food businesses, new and proposed food businesses and consumers on food safety matters
- Promotional and educational activities and initiatives based around food safety, food hygiene and food standards
As part of the provision of a complete service the team works in conjunction with the following partner organisations:
|Public Health England||For the provision of Food, Water and Environmental Microbiology Services to Local Authorities.||FW&E Microbiology Laboratory,
Block 10, York Biotech Campus, Sand Hutton, York, YO41 1LZ
|The Council’s Appointed Public Analyst||For the examination of food and feed samples and associated labelling and compositional testing.||Public Analyst Scientific Services,
54 Business Park,
|The Animal Health and Plant Agency||For queries relating to import/export trading arrangements.||Carlisle|
|Public Health England||For Infectious Disease and Food poisoning notifications.||North East HPT.
Public Health England
Floor 1. Barras Bridge,
Newcastle upon Tyne,
On 1 April 2022 there were 1307 food premises in South Tyneside in the inspection programme.
The number of each type of food business is as follows:
|Type of Food Business||Total Number of premises in Category|
|Manufacturers and Packers||13|
|Importers / Exporters||3|
|Distributors / Transporters||15|
|Restaurants / Caterers||829|
Of these 1307 premises registered in accordance with Regulation (EC) 852/2004, 6 are approved in accordance with Regulation (EC) 853/2004, 1 of which is approved specifically by the FSA and currently there is one rated premises awaiting meat product approval.
There are a number of major food processors in the borough, including meat products and preparations manufacturers, fish products, a ready meal manufacturer, and a cold store.
The majority of food businesses are involved in catering and have commercial premises from which they trade. But increasingly many businesses in the retail and catering sectors are moving to domestic and on-line services. This means that many of these businesses, which are subject to the same regulatory compliance rules and checks, require greater resource to track and monitor such activities.
Dark kitchens, which are businesses operating under the radar of Food Authorities from domestic premises and non-registered food premises, continue to be a high- risk concern. Any complaints or intelligence identifying the existence of such premises are given high priority for intervention.
Ghost businesses trading under a variety of different names are also regulated effectively by maintaining the M3 database and retaining a single registration and property index for all the trader names.
The Environmental Health Service is based at South Shields Town Hall. The office is open from 08.30 am to 5.00 pm Monday to Thursday and 08.30 am to 4.30 pm on Friday. Many visits are made outside these times, including weekends, as determined by the needs of the service and the trading hours of the particular food business, as required under the Codes of Practice.
In view of the large size of the borough, officers will carry out site visits to take receipt of complaints and to fulfil service requests as necessary.
Out of hours contact is through a 24-hour call centre provided by the Council; issues requiring urgent attention are passed to designated officers for assessment and action as appropriate.
Approximately 0.4% of the population in South Tyneside (based on 2011 census figures) do not have English as their first language or do not speak English at all, and there is a significant contingent of Chinese, Turkish, Polish, Bengali, Bangladeshi and Thai Food Business Operators (FBOs) in South Tyneside. The service will work with all FBOs to help them comply with food hygiene law, including the provision of guidance interpreted into a number of languages, the provision of interpreters, and facilitating local courses which have been delivered in a number of different languages.
In particular, the service continues to offer specific Allergen, Colourings in Food and Cross-contamination advisory sessions to the Bengali and Bangladeshi communities, to further support compliance with existing and new regulations in this respect.
Officers are kept abreast of emerging food and feed safety risks of imported food by new monitoring software (Risk Likelihood Dashboard) and inland imported food checks during routine inspections and as part of the regional food and feed sampling programmes.
Seasonal or occasional food premises inspections include:
- Premises associated with tourism, such as caravan sites, ice cream sales and Bed & Breakfast establishments
- Farmers markets and food festivals
- Great North Run
- Local events using mobile food traders that are registered outside the Borough
South Tyneside Council fully supports the approach to good enforcement practice that is outlined in the Regulators’ Code that came into effect on 6 April 2014 under the Legislative and Regulatory Reform Act 2006. The Council has a Corporate Enforcement Policy that aims to deliver improved regulatory outcomes, particularly those related to health, safety, crime reduction, anti-social behaviour, environmental protection and economic vitality, whilst reducing unnecessary burdens on compliant businesses. A specific Food Law Enforcement Policy ensures that enforcement action is taken in a graduated manner according to risk and receptiveness to compliance.
The Service is currently ensuring appropriate arrangements are in place for implementation and enforcement of new Food Safety Regulations including the Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector) (England) Regulations 2021 from April 2022 and the new Food (Promotion and Placement) (England) Regulations 2021 from October 2022. The Regulatory Enforcement and Sanctions Act 2008 provides for a system of ‘civil sanctions’ in respect of ‘relevant offences’. These new regulations make provision for the use of financial penalties as a means of enforcement and to discharge breaches, in lieu of prosecution. South Tyneside’s Enforcement Policy will be reviewed to take account of the use of civil sanctions in these circumstances.
Food premises interventions
At inspection, businesses are rated in respect of current adherence to food hygiene and food standards requirements. The Council uses the Food Hygiene Intervention Rating Scheme as detailed in the Brand Standard for the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and the Food Law Code of Practice, in order to calculate risk and future inspection frequency.
This ensures that all premises are inspected at an appropriate minimum interval determined by their individual risk rating. This is based on the nature of food handling undertaken, the level of compliance with legal requirements and confidence in food safety management systems.
This inspection frequency varies from 6 monthly to 3 years depending on the assessed risk category:
|Risk category||Frequency of inspection|
|E||Alternative inspection strategy every 3 years|
The Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) is operated for the benefit of the public purchasing food from premises in South Tyneside to enable them to make an informed choice based on the standard of hygiene.
Ratings of businesses within the scope of the scheme and registered in South Tyneside are given both a risk rating for inspection frequency and an FHRS rating. The inspection frequency rating is managed via the Environmental Health Information Management system (M3PP) electronic database and from this the FHRS ratings are uploaded every 7-14 days onto the National Food Hygiene Rating database which is managed and overseen by the FSA as part of their scheme5.
Food Premises inspections are carried out according to the Food Standards Agency’s Code of Practice and involve a range of interventions that are available to fulfil the competent authority’s official controls obligations. The type of intervention depends on the risk category of the food business and is tailored to ensure an adequate assessment of the ongoing risk to food safety by a competent officer authorised to carry out such assessment. They incorporate an option to conduct alternative interventions for lower risk premises, verification and surveillance checks as well as non-official interventions such as survey visits or advisory visits.
The use of self-assessment questionnaires for Category E rated premises are used by South Tyneside Council for very low risk rated food businesses to monitor and gauge food risk activity and determine whether the business needs to go back into the physical inspection programme.
Verification visits are carried out as an alternative intervention to a full or partial inspection for compliant C’s and D rated premises by Authorised Food Officers, to enable staff resources to be diverted to those higher risk premises not achieving good standards. Low risk premises not returning a completed questionnaire, or where changes or particular concerns are noted during the verification inspection or via complaints or other intelligence implying non-compliance, then a physical visit or inspection will be initiated.
The Environmental Health Information Management system (M3PP) is maintained to manage all food and feed premise records, all inspections and other related activities. It is anticipated that a new additional software system (Assure) will be brought in on-line within the next 12 months to supplement the existing database and provide more functionality to better facilitate customer interaction with the service. The team is committed to the ongoing development of the council’s website to further improve communication with food businesses and the public.
The team aims to undertake interventions within 28 days of the due date for Category A-C rated premises, 56 days for Category D premises and 28 days following notification of a new business operation. However, in the event of recent circumstances and the lockdown timeframes for many food businesses during the Covid pandemic, many of these interventions have not been achieved, creating a significant backlog. The FSA has produced a roadmap plan 6 of priority workloads for Competent Authorities to target delivery of official controls for 2022-23. The following table provides the timeframes for completion of the priorities set.
|Number of inspections due||April to June 22||June to Sept 22||Sept to March 23|
|Of which high risk||4||9||18|
|Category B rated||22||4||9|
|Category C non-compliant||3 (9)||4||5|
|Category D non-compliant||(7)|
|Category C compliant||230|
Figures in brackets are numbers of official interventions required to be undertaken to end of March 2023 and specifically includes the backlogs from 2020-21 and 2021-22 from the pandemic being carried forward
Enforcement action to secure compliance
Food businesses that fail to comply with significant statutory requirements are subject to secondary inspections and appropriate enforcement action in line with the Food Law Enforcement Policy and the General Enforcement Policy. This can include the service of Hygiene Improvement Notices where, for example, work detailed on a previous report has not been completed, or if serious concerns about food safety are identified during an inspection. Where conditions or practices pose an imminent risk to health, on the spot action may be taken, including immediate closure of the premises by the service of a Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notice.
Inspection of specialised (approved) premises
These will be undertaken by appropriately trained and authorised officers in accordance with the Food Law, Code of Practice (England) March 2021. 7 Currently the Lead Food Officer and one Environmental Health Officer are authorised to fulfil the statutory functions afforded to these businesses. Any feed businesses requiring approval will be subject to the same under the direction of the Lead Feed Officer in Trading Standards. It is anticipated that one new business will be subject to a full Approval application assessment in 2022/23.
Officers assess all complaints received in respect of food produced, stored, distributed or sold in the South Tyneside area, including contamination, fitness and durability, as well as food hygiene complaints and reported cases of food poisoning. Feed complaints are managed by the Lead Feed Officer in Trading Standards and allocated to appropriately trained and authorised food officers.
The Council operates an intelligence-led approach to enforcement and all complaints will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Relevant intelligence is uploaded on to the IDB Intelligence Database to disseminate information to other enforcement agencies and bodies who oversee regulatory functions in other food related fields, trans-border and internationally.
Localised food safety incidents that come to light that may have more far reaching consequences are reported to the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit (NFCU) 8 or to the local NFCU Representative. Matters for further action will be investigated in accordance with work instructions and, where appropriate, the Council’s Enforcement Policy.
Investigations are usually made in consultation with the local authority with responsibility for the company concerned, the Primary Authority for the national food chain where applicable, 9 or the manufacturing premises where the problem may have originated. This approach is intended to ensure that all parties are kept informed, any ‘due diligence’ defence is identified and that any further action taken is based on investigation findings and information received.
There has been a significant increase in the number of complaints and requests for service following the lifting of Covid restrictions in the food sector and the churn in the number of food operators setting up new food businesses in 2022/23. It is anticipated that this number will fall as supply and demand in the industry settles into a new phase. The number of food related service requests in 2021/2 was 332 compared to 210 in 2020/21 and 211 in 2019/20. 40 complaints and service requests have been received for food related matters in the first 2 months of this year indicating a return to pre-covid levels. Again, this function will be met within existing resources.
Home and Primary Authority Schemes
The Council is committed to developing good relationships with food businesses in the area, and where appropriate, establishing Home or Primary Authority Partnership agreements. Although there are currently no formal agreements in place, the Council does operate an informal home authority arrangement with a large multi chain retail/catering business whose manufacturing site is located in the Borough.
The Council recognises the importance and benefits to all parties and will actively seek opportunities to develop effective partnership agreements as they arise. The Council is also mindful of the potential impact on resources from this work and will endeavour to recover any additional costs through the permitted charging regime.
Officers regularly check the Better Regulation Delivery Office database of existing Primary Authority Partnerships and have regard to any inspection or sampling plans for premises operating in South Tyneside for which they have a duty to consult.
Officers contact the appropriate regulatory authority when considering enforcement action against food businesses outside of the Borough and food officers will also endeavour to meet requests from other local authorities for information or to support investigations in relation to food complaints arising from food produced in South Tyneside. Such matters will be fully investigated in partnership with the business concerned with a view to ascertaining the cause of the complaint and preventing a recurrence. Full reports are provided to the local authorities concerned.
Food safety advice and training
The team provide advice and support to all food businesses, voluntary groups, charities and members of the public. The service will target training on key food safety matters to specific groups within the food sector where a need has been identified. The service will also refer food businesses to appropriate training bodies to assist their staff to gain sufficient knowledge to achieve high standards of food hygiene at work, in the community and at home.
The Service regularly undertakes valuable work with food businesses in the borough to educate food business operators and food handlers on their obligations in respect of allergen labelling and the provision of suitable information for the public. The service aims to continue to deliver this and other priority food standards work into 2022/23, both from existing and additional resources.
Food and feed sampling
The Service operates a food/feed sampling and analysis programme to monitor food standards, both compositional and microbiological, in the local food/feed supply and will also assist with national surveillance programmes. The team will investigate food complaints made by the public as necessary and food may be examined or analysed, and action taken as appropriate with the producer or retailer.
Informal microbiological sampling
Programmed sampling is carried out to:
- determine the microbiological safety of food produced and sold in South Tyneside,
- determine trends in microbiological quality,
- to ascertain whether handling, processing and storage techniques are satisfactory and
- to determine the effectiveness of cleaning and disinfection.
Samples are taken in accordance with the team’s work instructions. The sampling programme comprises two parts:
- The South Tyneside sampling programme which consists of samples of high-risk food from producers or caterers in the area.
- The ‘NE Regional Food Sampling Group under the direction of the North-East Food Liaison Group and the Public Health England Laboratory in York establishes a programme of targeted sampling carried out in conjunction with seven other local authorities in the region - Newcastle, Northumberland, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Sunderland and Durham. It is intelligence led and focuses sampling on environmental factors or food/feed of interest that has come to the national attention. For example, new or novel foods coming onto the market, raised concerns about infectious disease and plausible sources of infection, imported food of national interest or emerging risks identified from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. (This is a European electronic database set up to exchange information about serious risks detected in imported or exported food or feed and is a useful intelligence tool to direct resource and attention).
All Microbiological food samples are collected and transported to York by a PHE appointed courier for examination. All costs for this service are currently met by the PHE’s budget. All food and feed samples, to be subject to analysis for non-microbiological contamination, are collected and transported to the Metrological Laboratory in Gateshead, as a holding facility, for collection by the Public Analyst courier.
Currently the compositional food and feed sampling budget for 2022-23 remains at £10,000 to cover the cost of this service. Although previous years have seen a significant underspend of this budget whilst staff were redirected to administrative functions targeting lower risk food business interventions, additional temporary resource has been obtained to backfill this administrative work temporarily, thus freeing up the sampling officer to undertake more sampling work. This has seen significant use of the budget in 2021-22 with focused sampling on allergens as part of a local enforcement project. However attempts to obtain permanent administrative support for the Team have been unsuccessful to date and may require staff to again be redirected away from sampling work to address backlogs in essential administrative functions. The costs for directed surveillance on specific food and feed sampling projects are generally funded by the North-East Trading Standards Association via government funding, freeing up the Council budget for local issues of concern. If possible, the local project on allergen work will continue into 2022-23 with officers directed to undertake enforcement work where there are concerns of poor-performing businesses posing a risk to consumers.
Formal examination and analysis
Formal food samples are collected by an Authorised Officer of the Council and submitted for formal examination by a Food Examiner provided by the Public Health England laboratory at York. The Food Examiner then provides a written report as to its microbiological safety and compliance with food safety guidelines.
Should the need arise, food/feed samples or items requiring formal analysis of compositional safety or as a result of suspected contamination/substitution from a non-microbiological source, may be sampled, taken or seized by an Authorised Officer and sent for formal testing and examination by the Council’s appointed Public Analyst. The Public Analyst also issues a report as to their findings and whether the sample conforms to legal parameters, directing the Food/Feed Officer’s next course of action. Informal and formal samples are taken and handled in accordance with the team’s work instructions.
Water samples of public and school swimming pools are collected in conjunction with South Tyneside Council’s Leisure services team. Private commercial pools and hydro-therapy baths, and water and ice samples from approved premises, are also subject to microbiological examination on a scheduled basis.
All of the above sampling activities are met from within existing resources, with the cost of informal food sample analyses funded by a credit system operated by the York Public Health England laboratory. Current and consistent allocation for South Tyneside remains at 10382 credits, with the cost of food, water and environmental samples ranging from 10-35 credits depending on the complexity of the test.
45 pool water quality and hydrotherapy samples were taken in 2021-22 and around 74 sample numbers are anticipated for the coming year as we look to return to pre-covid sampling frequencies of twice yearly per pool facility.
Control and investigation of outbreaks and cases of food related infectious disease
The team work closely with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), to investigate sporadic and linked cases of gastrointestinal illness and outbreaks.
In the event of sporadic cases this is usually achieved by completing telephone questionnaires with each case requesting targeted information to identify the potential source of the infection and to give advice to prevent further spread within the family household and through the community setting from employment contacts. This screening aims to identify potential outbreaks and promote good hygiene practices and to analyse information gained from the investigation. Where telephone investigations are not feasible, officers carry out home visits or hospital visits to ascertain information from the case or close family.
Complex or potentially linked infections are done in association with neighbouring Local Authority officers where cases of infection cross boundaries and in conjunction with the Consultant in Communicable Disease Control/Consultant in Health Protection/Regional Epidemiologist/Unit Director at UKHSA who act as the Council’s Proper Officer for the reporting, investigation and overseeing of notifiable diseases.
Outbreak investigations are carried out in accordance with the team’s work instructions, UKHSA’s Outbreak control guidelines for the specific disease and where appropriate the South of Tyne Outbreak Control Plan. Investigations of outbreaks can be extremely time consuming and take priority over other work.
Historical data indicates that typically 250 cases of gastrointestinal illness are formally notified to South Tyneside Council each year from laboratory test results. This figure was 253 for 2020/21. The quarterly South of Tyne Infection Report for Jan-March 2022 has not shown any statistically significant increase or decrease in the number of notifiable infection rates in the population of South Tyneside compared to quarter 1 in 2021 and pre-pandemic rates in 2020. However new faecal sample screening at the Gateshead laboratory in May 2022 for Yersinia bacteria has identified a sharp increase in isolates being identified with 6 cases referred for investigation within the first month. Projections expect to see formal infectious disease notifications rise by 25% over 2022-23 for this reason alone.
Investigation of notified reports of suspected or confirmed cases of infectious disease in 2022/23 will continue to be met from within existing resources.
There had been an unusually higher than regional average number of Campylobacter infections reported in South Tyneside in 2020-21, which was then mirrored regionally. As a result, a targeted project to investigate links between sporadic cases was rolled out using an electronic survey questionnaire to look at key potential sources of infection and food histories. UKHSA trend analysed the data from respondees but found no links to support the delivery of targeted interventions. As a consequence, the pilot was discontinued in May 2022, with the focus of infection returning to the FSA’s national Campylobacter project surveillance work.
The Commercial Food and Safety team continues to support colleagues in the Public Health Team in relation to sporadic Covid case investigations and potentially linked clusters where a business has been identified as the potential source of onward transmission. The team has continued to deliver on the FSA priorities for official controls during 2021-22, showing full adherence to the FSA’s focused priorities for the year ending March 2022 in relation to investigations of food complaints and food-borne contamination incidents.
Food safety incidents
All food safety incidents and food alerts notified by the FSA are handled in accordance with the team’s work instructions and requirements of the Food Law Code of Practice (England).
The team maintain a dedicated mailbox to receive all such notifications; this is regularly monitored during the day. Food Alerts for action are treated as high priority and are responded to within 24 hours, with any required action given priority. Where action is required, this is usually carried out in conjunction with members of the NE Food Liaison Group to ensure consistency.
This work continues to be met from within existing resources. It is anticipated that between 1-3 national food safety incidents occur each year requiring officer intervention on a large scale, to contain and manage product recall and withdrawal of food from various catering and/or retail outlets in the Borough. Again, such incidents will be managed within existing resources.
Liaison with other organisations
South Tyneside Council is a member of the NE Food Liaison Group (NEFLG), which meets approximately 5 times a year and the North-East Trading Standards Group (NETSA) 4 times a year. These groups provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and new initiatives and to develop a consistent approach to all aspects of food/feed law enforcement and service delivery, as well as the development of guidance and best practice. It also provides a vehicle for liaison with other agencies (such as North-East Trading Standards Intelligence Team, Food Standards Agency, the National Food Crime Unit, Public Health England, NE Public Protection Partnership) and other groups such as the National Food Liaison Group and sub regional food sampling groups. The NEFLG and NETSA also maintains strong links to other regional county groups in the North of England and national groups.
The Council is also represented on the NE Environmental Health Group, which maintains a more strategic overview in the region.
Food safety promotion and non-official controls
South Tyneside Council having adopted the National Food Hygiene Rating scheme in 2012, continues to promote the benefits of a rating of 3-5 to food business operators and the public, during programmed visits and through promotional activity.
The effectiveness of the scheme is evaluated by periodically monitoring the proportion of premises in the higher rating bands and promoting those food businesses in local advertising campaigns.
Food officer competency
The competency and quality of work conducted by authorised food officers in the Commercial Food and Safety Team are subject to checks and audits in accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice. Interventions and recorded work of all inspection staff is regularly monitored in accordance with the team’s work instructions, with staff only allocated work for which they are deemed competent and subsequently authorised to undertake.
New staff, or those that have been absent for a specific period are subject to supervision until deemed competent, as are those duly authorised consultants that have been brought in to deliver aspects of the inspection programme. Competence criteria and additional training to ensure staff compliance with the Food Law Code of Practice will be assessed by the Lead Food Officer who will monitor the staffing requirements necessary to deliver the Food Law Service Plan and meet the official control duties laid out in the Food Law Code of Practice.
In-house training sessions, consistency and peer review exercises, together with 1-2-1 management meetings provide support and direction to staff on service delivery and ensures consistency of approach for businesses and customers across the region. Additional formal training is carried out in conjunction with the NE Food Liaison Group, the North-East Public Protection Partnership, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and electronically run courses hosted by the FSA and their associated training providers. In order to maintain competency and deliver certain official food/feed controls in accordance with the Codes of Practice, a minimum 20 hours of continued professional development is required - 10 of which must be in the specialist field of service delivery.
In-house training is also provided in relation to information technology, the various electronic databases used by the food/feed team and the M3PP Environmental Health Information Management System as necessary.
Feed officer competency
Training in essential core competencies is maintained through in-house training and in conjunction with our various regional partner agencies and external training providers, to ensure authorised officers meet the competency requirements as detailed in the Feed Law CoP.
Training for officers undertaking feed hygiene duties is primarily co-ordinated through the NETSA Animal Health Group for the region. This will continue throughout 2021/23.
In addition, all feed hygiene enforcement officers have access to up to date reference material via dedicated websites, including Knowledge Hub forums and groups, Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the FSA. All officers engaged in feeding stuffs enforcement complete their mandatory 10 hours CPD each year. Officers that have been absent for more than 3 years will be subject to training and supervision until deemed competent in both food and feed duties.
Number of food premises
As of 31st March 2022, there were 1307 food premises on the South Tyneside food database.
The table below shows the number of food business in each premises category. The numbers in brackets relate to March 2021 figures for comparison.
|Premises category||Total number of premises in category|
|Importers||(3) 3 but no. Incl in other categories|
|Restaurants and Caterers||(805) 819|
|Unrated/New food business applications||(134) 87|
|Premises closed in previous years||(25) 68|
At 31st March 2022, the breakdown of food businesses, by category in the area was as follows:
|Priority||Premises category||Premises Score||Frequency of Inspection||Total number of premises in Category|
|A||High||92 or higher||6 months||(0) 1|
|B||High||72 to 91||12 months||(36) 33|
|C||High||52 to 71||18 months||(241) 261|
|D||Low||31 to 51||24 months||(392) 389|
|E||Low||0 to 30||Alternative interventions (36 months)||(465) 482|
|Unrated||Other||New premises within 28 days of registration||(159) 141|
|Outside Programme||Other||(1) 1|
The FSA have also established a planned intervention inspection frequency for food standards related activities in food businesses, again based on the level of risk and compliance in relation to labelling/advertising and the nutritional and compositional contamination of food products. Interventions for high risk rated premises are limited to physical inspections only and lower risk rated premises may be subject to alternative interventions such as sampling or other targeted/project-based controls.
At 31st March 2022, the breakdown of food businesses, by category in the area was as follows:
|Priority||Premises category||Premises Score||Frequency of Inspection||Total number of premises in Category|
|A||High||92 or higher||12 months||(1) 1|
|B||Medium||72 to 91||24 months||(260) 287|
|C||Low||52 to 71||60 months||(778) 780|
|Unrated||New premises within 28 days of registration||(255) 239|
Business (including primary producers) supplying, handling, selling, transporting and distributing feed products for food animals are subject to inspection and official controls as defined in the FSA Feed Law Codes of Practice and associated guidance in the same way as food.10 Interventions and enforcement action is conducted in much the same way by authorised feed officers within the Commercial Food and Safety Team under the direction of the Lead Feed Officer in the Trading Standards Team.
At 31st March 2022, the breakdown of feed businesses, by category in the area was as follows:
|Business type/premises category||Total number of premises in category|
|R5 Marketing compound feed||1|
|R6 Manufacturing pet food||1|
|R7 Manufacture and marketing of feed materials||16 (2 unrated)|
|R10/11 mixing on farm feed with additives||0|
|R12 co-products/by-products as feed materials||1|
|R13 Livestock farms no additives||8 (2 unrated)|
|R14 Arable farms food/feed||6 (3 unrated)|
South Tyneside Council currently have no feed businesses subject to Approval controls for the operation of high-risk feed activities. Based on revisions to the Feed Codes of Practice risk rating and inspection programme those lower risk rated feed businesses falling into the R13 and R14 category that are current members of a recognised assurance scheme are subjected to the national targeted monitoring strategy (NTMS). This means that only a percentage of these inspections are required each year based on the proportion of total premise numbers within in the Borough.
|Priority||Premises category risk||Premises Score||Frequency of Inspection||Total number of premises in Category|
|A||High||147 -200||12 months||0|
|B||High||122 to 146||24 months*||0|
|C||Satisfactory||106 to 121||36 months*||0|
|D||Low||85 to 105||48 months *||3|
|E||Low||0 to 84||60 months**||33|
* except where Type 1 earned recognition applies
** except where Type 1, Type 2 earned recognition or NTMS applies
Feed inspections and sampling are carried out in conjunction with the national feed surveillance programmes based on priorities identified nationally, emerging risks and intelligence from a variety of sources. Funding for much of the feed inspection programme is supplemented through the North East Trading Standards Association (NETSA) and central government funding.
Currently there are 2 crop farms registered with Type 1 recognised assurance schemes within the Borough and 1 livestock farm. Based on the numbers of feed businesses, the priorities of the feed inspection programme in accordance with the Feed Law Codes of Practice and regional surveillance recommendations, approximately 4-6 premises are subject to routine official feed inspections/interventions per year.
Imported food controls
Food Import Official controls fall to the Port Health Authority to manage and oversee in accordance with the Official Food and Feed Control Regulations. These are managed by Tyne Port Health under the direction of North Tyneside Council.
Inland imported food and feed controls fall to the Authority in whose boundary the food/feed resides when subjected to the official control. In the case of Imported Official Feed controls coming into the Port of Tyne, the responsibility rests with the riparian port Authority, which is in this case South Tyneside.
Regular checks are conducted with the Port’s Head of Operations and incoming ship manifests are monitored against the Destin8 shipping transport database on a regular basis to assess the level of imported feed material/products activity and therefore the need for more directed resource to officiate the necessary feed controls. No known feed imports have been identified in the last 24 months requiring official controls.
Enhanced surveillance was conducted over 2021-22, following BREXIT, to determine whether activity was increasing. There is no current evidence to suggest feed imports activity has changed at the Port or is likely to over the next 12 months.
Interventions at food establishments 2020/2021
Food Hygiene Interventions undertaken in 2021/22 (by category of premises) in accordance with the FSA’s priority action plan for official control delivery during Covid lockdown and restrictions and assessment of risk to officers undertaking these official controls were as follows. The figures include verification checks in 2021-22 as well as official full and partial food hygiene interventions:
|0||(18) 15||(40) 101||(46) 87||(85) 22||(37) 110||(226) 335|
Figures in brackets relate to 2020-21 figures for comparison
This does not take account of revisits, telephone and surveillance checks, advisory emails and other remote interventions as part of monitoring activity and food safety risk during the pandemic. A number of businesses were also closed and had not reopened by the end of the accounting period. These businesses have been rolled over into next year’s inspection programme.
|Category||Number of Inspections due 2021/22||Number of inspections undertaken||Percentage completion|
|B||(27) 27||(18) 15||(67%) 56%|
|C||(224) 141||(40) 104||(18%) 74%|
|Total High Risk||(251) 168||(58) 119||(23%) 71%|
|D||(381) 276||(46) 72||(12%) 26%|
|E||(464) 392||(85) 60||(18%) 15%|
|Total Low Risk||(845) 1004||(131) 370||(15.5%) 37%|
Figures in brackets relate to 2020-21 for comparison
The FSA priorities for 2021-22 were delivery of official controls in relation to Approved premises and prioritisation of new business registration applications as well as focusing on those already subject to formal enforcement intervention and non-compliant high risk food premises.
|Risk Category and FHRS rating high risk||Number of businesses due an intervention in 2020/21||Number of inspections undertaken||Percentage completion|
|New business applications||155|
|Of which were classified high risk||119||115||97%|
|A risk 0-2 rated||(0) 0||(0) 0||n/a|
|B risk 0-2 rated||(6) 5||(4) 5 (1 closed during year and remains closed)||100%|
|C risk 0-2 rated||(12) 7||(6) 5 (2 remained closed during 2021 and remain closed)||100%|
Figures include overdue inspections carried forward from previous years due to pandemic
Number of revisits in 2021/22
42 revisits were recorded for food hygiene and safety related matters to check for compliance and to determine the need for more formal intervention.
Requests for service
Requests for service include concerns regarding the condition of premises, or food with microbiological or physical contamination
|Hygiene of Premises||Food Complaints||Other Food Related Enquiries|
|(97) 100||(83) 55||(43) 116|
Enforcement action (premises) 2021/22
- Informal Warnings
- Improvement Notices
- Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Notices
- Hygiene Emergency Prohibition Orders
- Voluntary Closure
- Seizure, Detention, Voluntary surrender of food
- Simple Cautions
- 1 pending
Inspection letters and reports for high-risk premises, detailing a schedule of works to aid future compliance and to identify the non-conformities witnessed during the inspection are generated for all food business operators following a full inspection. Business operators are given the opportunity to respond to the inspection report and request further advice by returning an operator’s response form in a prepaid envelope or electronically This is considered an effective tool for communicating and improving the quality of the service.
Food standards interventions are generally conducted alongside the food hygiene inspection where businesses are due or overdue in the programme. Reduced staffing resource over recent years has meant that consultants have been used to backfill some of the lower risk food hygiene inspection programme, and consequently the Food Standards inspections that run alongside these visits have not been conducted. Subsequently some food standards sampling intervention programmes that were planned for 2021-22, to address some of the backlog, were shelved due to the pandemic. This has meant that the Food Standards Inspection programme has developed a significant backlog.
It is anticipated that the new Food Standards Inspection/Intervention pilot which ran with a select number of Food Authorities from January 2021-Dec 2021 will require all food businesses to be re-rated according to the new risk rating criteria. It is hoped that by targeting resources, we will be in a better position to deliver official controls according to the new system going forward. The roll out of the new food standards intervention programme is scheduled for April 2023.
Interventions at feed establishments 2021/2022
Food Hygiene Interventions undertaken in 2021/22 (by category of premises) in accordance with the FSA’s feed intervention plan during Covid lockdown and restrictions were as follows:
|Business Type/Premise category||Number of Inspections due 2020/21||Number of inspections undertaken||Percentage of interventions completed|
The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect delivery of the Food Inspection Programme throughout 2021-22 and will continue to do so as the landscape of food businesses and trading patterns have significantly changed. The true impact will not be known for some time – many businesses have ceased to trade on a permanent basis, whilst others have stopped trading altogether or have adopted new business models, including providing takeaway and delivery services. Visits to premises were limited to those categorised as high priority, taking into consideration the infection risks to staff and the risk of onward spread. As a consequence, the number of new home catering businesses has increased significantly, indicated by the additional numbers of food registrations received over the last 2 years based on annual averages for the years preceding Covid.
The FSA has continued to update Competent Authorities to direct them on their priorities in relation to official control delivery over the course of 2021-22. The FSA has requested feedback from Competent Authorities, in the form of a quarterly ‘temperature check’, on their adherence to official controls and progress clearing the backlog of overdue Food Inspections, whilst maintaining focus on existing high priority work and demands.
In the early stages of the pandemic, alternative non-official interventions were piloted with lower risk food businesses to try and assess the food safety risks associated with those food businesses that were still trading. Although Officers trialled these new approaches, they were found to be very cumbersome and time consuming due to IT challenges both in-house and with the business operators, and so many of these businesses remained within the inspection programme and were rolled over to the following year. Restricted access and changes to trading practices for some food businesses requiring official interventions has meant that although some programmed inspection work has continued throughout 2021-22, there has been a running backlog of inspections now carried forward to the 2022-23 programme.
As lockdown restrictions lifted, many of the previously rated satisfactory compliant businesses, which have not had the support and direction of food officer intervention (as they were not inspected as part of the FSA’s priority inspection programme during 2021/22), are beginning to show a deterioration in hygiene and safety standards. This has necessitated additional resource to take appropriate action in accordance with the Council’s Enforcement Policy. As the next stage of the FSA roadmap rolls out between June and September, with a focus on inspecting medium risk food businesses, the full effect of the lack of Local Authority interaction with food businesses over the last 2-3 years will start to unfold.
- Ensure adequate arrangements are in place to deliver the Food Hygiene Inspection programme 2022/23, including the backlog of inspections carried forward from 2020-21 and 2021-22 in accordance with the FSA’s priority delivery programme scheduled to March 2023.
- Deliver the Food Inspection Programme for 2022-23 and include for the delivery of more risk-based, proportionate, targeted and cost-effective Official Controls.
- Ensure adequate arrangements are in place to deliver the Food Standards Inspection programme for 2022/23 and to provide increased focus on food standards related enforcement activity.
- Ensure adequate arrangements are in place to deliver the Feed Inspection programme for 2022-23 and ensure staff are given sufficient instruction and training to meet the competency requirements to deliver the required feed official controls in South Tyneside and take appropriate enforcement action where necessary. One part-time feed officer has been redirected to animal welfare duties following an increase in complaints post pandemic coupled with an enhanced licensing regime having been brought in to regulate additional animal welfare controls. Staff resource will be reviewed over 2021-22 to monitor staff capability to continue to fulfil these statutory functions.
- To ensure adequate arrangements are in place to continue to provide services to local businesses reliant on local authority support post Brexit, particularly in relation to the provision of Export Health Certification. Delivery of such services will be kept under regular review against consideration of impact on other priorities for the Food service.
- To review and update all food related work instructions / policies following changes to legislation and operating practices.
- To ensure implementation of the requirements of the FSA’s revised ‘Regulating our Futures’ programme to modernise food safety enforcement and ensure it is sustainable for the future.
- To adopt the additional requirements of the FSA competency framework and ensure sufficiently competent and authorised staff are maintained within the food team to deliver the required official controls in accordance with the Codes of Practice.
- To continue to monitor the resource provided to food safety enforcement to ensure it is adequate to meet the demands of the service, including carrying out new food business interventions in a timely manner.
- To continue to provide effective food and feed registration interventions prioritising high-risk and non-compliant premises
- To continue to carry out follow-up interventions to 0, 1 and 2 food hygiene rated premises to secure improvements.
- To continue to use the full range of enforcement tools available to protect the safety, health and welfare of visitors, residents and workers within the borough and to support compliant businesses.
- To continue to participate in the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
- To improve’ self-help’ information available to businesses/public
- Sampling food, water and environmental conditions in accordance with the agreed NE Food Liaison Group / PHE sampling programme.
- Investigate notifications of infectious disease / suspected outbreaks as appropriate.
- Continue working with businesses to promote understanding of the requirements of the Food Information Regulations 2014.
- Maintaining provision of food safety training and advice for targeted food businesses on key food safety matters, including allergens.
- Greater targeting of enforcement at higher risk businesses and those persistently failing to comply.
- Providing more information to consumers on food safety standards and food premises (e.g. Food Hygiene Rating Scheme)
Additional priorities for 2022/23
- To increase emphasis on inland imported food standards checks and sampling of imported food to improve intelligence and better future targeting of risk-based inspections.
- To re-prioritise delivery of the official controls for the food hygiene and standards inspection programme in accordance with the Food Standards Agency’s roadmap for recovery following the Covid pandemic. It is hoped that ‘local authority resources can be targeted where they add greatest value in providing safeguards for consumers and where the focus is on securing compliance in persistently non-compliant businesses.’ Each stage of the FSA’s roadmap requires Competent Authorities to feedback their conformance statistics by October 2022, December 2022 and March 2023. The priorities and estimated business intervention numbers are detailed in 9.1 above.
- To ensure better use of the Intelligence Database to further inform and direct official control interventions and provide useful intelligence to other agencies for action.
- To maintain enhanced monitoring of imported feed activity through the Port to assess the need for more official controls and subsequent intervention.
- To review service delivery processes and utilise the range of existing and new official controls interventions to better manage resource within the service. For example, increasing the use of ‘Alternative Enforcement Strategies’ and non-official controls for lower risk rated businesses.
- To adopt, implement and maintain the Food Standards Agency’s new competency framework and ensure staff are trained and authorised according to the new requirements from April 2022.
- To review and consider changes needed to the Environmental Health Information Database M3PP in order to maintain and deliver the new official intervention programme for food standards following the outcome of the FSA pilot in 2021/22, due to be rolled out nationally in April 2023.
- To maintain the Environmental Health Information Database M3PP to ensure reliable and accurate statistical records are provided for freedom of information requests, data returns to enforcement/ reporting agencies and to internal departments on the activities of the food/feed law service team.
- To consider additional functions to better inform the service of changes in business activities in the Borough and the changing nature of some business operations following the pandemic, such as database checks of new importers based in South Tyneside, social media monitoring to identify new home caterers, on-line sales and food brokering.
- To upgrade the existing Environmental Health Information Database M3PP food functionality to enhance customer facing service provision (ASSURE). Some additional resource will be required to facilitate the transition which will be met within the wider Environment Service.
Programmed interventions 2022/23
During 2022/23 the following programmed interventions are anticipated:
|Risk category||Number of anticipated interventions|
|B||21 + 12 overdue 21/22|
|C||106 + 141 overdue 21/22|
|D||0 high risk|
|Unrated new businesses at 31.3.22||71|
In addition, it is anticipated that the Service will receive approximately 150 new Food Premises Registrations in 2022-23, based on pre-covid levels, as a result of changes to ownership and new businesses opening. The team aim to assess/inspect these businesses within 28 days of receiving the application, or 56 days in the case of low-risk activities.
It is estimated that at least 40-50 revisits will be required during 2022-23 based on previous years’ activity and approximately 5-10 food hygiene re-rating requests.
Visits will also be carried out following receipt of complaints from the public. In 2021-22 332 complaints were received relating to hygiene, food and feed handling matters. This number was nearly 33% higher than during the pandemic and 25% higher than pre-pandemic levels. Best guesstimates anticipate a return to pre-pandemic complaint and service request levels of around 220-240 per year.
Demand in the form of requests for advice, is likely to remain stable in the current year. Business support for new and existing businesses, sign posting, and targeted advice is given freely electronically. Business requesting a more detailed consultancy service can book an advisory visit, which is a paid for service. This can cover a range of food safety/hygiene related matters including building design, as well as nutritional/ labelling/compositional standards.
Routine food safety interventions are used as an opportunity to raise awareness of health issues in relation to food in order to promote healthier food choices and locally sourced food. South Tyneside’s Commercial Food and Safety Team has been selected to participate in a pilot study during 2022-23 looking specifically at state maintained school food provision and its adherence to the Government’s School Food Standards policy objectives. This project is a joint initiative between the FSA and the Department for Education, looking at discrepancies between schools in respect of standards compliance and considering suitable intervention strategies to regulate and encourage uptake of more locally sustainable food supply chains, whilst providing nutritious and healthy daily meals within budget. Outcomes of the local project work undertaken by the Service, will help shape the Healthy Schools Award criteria in South Tyneside and inform other public health intervention work in this area.
Programmed feed interventions 2022/23
The FSA, working in conjunction with the Trading Standards Institute, coordinates a national project to deliver a feed intervention programme. As part of a collaborative working The North East Trading Standards Association (NETSA) has been awarded funding to deliver on priority feed premises for 2022/23 through collaborative working. South Tyneside’s share of the funding is £1006 to be used for the purposes of targeted intervention visits. This work will be undertaken at a mix of farm and non-farm premises. Non-farm premises include supermarkets, that provide surplus food into the feed chain and a business which transports feed and feed products.
|Business Type/Premises category||Number of Inspections due 2022/23|
Quarterly visits to the Port are also being reviewed in light of the new Border Control Post in North Tyneside and an informal agreement has been established which will ensure that all feed imports through the port are initially actioned by Port Health as part of the Import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFFS) pre-notification process, before referring to South Tyneside for official intervention when necessary. The Destin8 database and ship manifests are still subject to regular monitoring by Food and Trading Standards Officers to assess container imports of feed. No consignments were identified in 2021-22, indicating that this Port is unlikely to become a significant Port for this material such that there would be a need to upscale the staffing resource for Official Feed controls in this area.
Quarterly visits to the Port are no longer undertaken as funding for de minimus port functions has been withdrawn by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Any funding received from the NETSA budget for port work will be used to fund the Destin8 database for the next 12-24 months, whilst imports are monitored following BREXIT to see if any cargo ships are redirected to smaller/cheaper ports such as the Port of Tyne.
DEFRA had anticipated that activity at North Tyneside’s Port would rise significantly, potentially impacting on the Port of Tyne in South Tyneside and as such commissioned a structural upgrade of the facilities in North Tyneside to an official Border Control Post. North Tyneside Port Health can now accept all food products of animal origin, high risk food not of animal origin and pet animals at the Roll-on/roll-off ferry terminal. All of these products are subject to inspection by Port Health Officers and/or Official Veterinary Officers.
Total expenditure on the food service is relatively stable, however it is acknowledged that additional resources maybe required in order to deliver the backlog of interventions for 2022-23 alongside meeting the existing statutory official controls functions. Focus is being directed to upscaling the competency of existing staff to deliver the Food programme and additional resource is being sought to buy in consultancy services for some of the lower risk food hygiene interventions. This additional support will help staff maintain a focus on intervention activities where the risks are highest.
Staffing allocation 2021/22
In 2021-22 the staffing allocation for food safety matters comprised 4.0 Full Time Equivalent (FTE) Authorised Food Officers to deliver the Food Law Service. The fluctuating nature of lockdowns and pressures of other service demands within the Environmental Health Team has meant that staff have continued to be directed away from programmed inspection priorities for varying periods during 2021-22. The Commercial Food and Safety Team has supported the Council’s Avian Flu response and delivered the required response to an increase in general food product safety recalls in respect of a national Salmonella incident. The Team has continued to deliver the priority Official Food Controls, with a primary focus on addressing high risk and emerging risks in the Borough’s food catering sector, in accordance with the FSA’s recovery roadmap.
Staffing allocation 2022/23
Funding has been obtained to secure a permanent full-time specialist Food Environmental Health Officer, to fulfil the range of Official Food Controls and the post has been filled. This has allowed the existing Authorised Lead Food Officer to take on more management responsibility in the Team and to deliver on IT and Policy upgrades to maintain conformance with the Food Law Codes of Practice.
Furthermore, one of the qualified part-time Environmental Health Officers in the food team is expected to return from maternity leave from September 2022. The return of this member of the team will assist with the backlog of inspections rolled over from the pandemic and will help to deliver the priorities to March 2023.
Funding to recruit to a dedicated business / technical support post (1 x FTE) on a fixed-term 12- month basis, has been secured. This postholder would support the vast and complex administrative functions of the team. Unfortunately attempts to recruit to this post have proven unsuccessful so far, the temporary nature of the post limiting interest from those within the existing wider service, with a crucial working knowledge of the Management Information Database. Successful recruitment would provide much needed administrative support to the team and free up existing qualified staff to deliver the priorities in the current and new inspection programmes. Longer-term funding to secure permanent staff will be required should the temporary post remain unfilled.
From February 2022 a Graduate Environmental Health Officer has been employed in the post of Technical Officer, providing back-fill for maternity leave elsewhere in the team, for a 12- month period. Ensuring the provision of the training required to deliver the official food controls, and to ensure the competency of staff, is an on-going challenge, requiring a considerable time commitment from the Lead Food Officer. The need to adhere to competency criteria has meant that the Technical Officer is not yet in a position to deliver statutory official food functions at this time. The officer is however providing valuable service support and undertaking training to enable full contribution to the inspection programme in due course.
- Regulation (EU) 2017/625 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law, rules on animal health and welfare, plant health and plant protection products Return to text
- The Food Law Code of Practice (England) (the Code) is issued under Section 40(1) of The Food Safety Act 1990, Regulation 6(1) of The Official Feed and Food Controls (England) Regulations 2009 and Regulation 26(1) of The Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013 Return to text
- https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/national-enforcement-priorities-for-animal-feed-and-food-hygiene Return to text
- https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/FSA-Strategic-plan-2015-2020.pdf Return to text
- https://ratings.food.gov.uk/ Return to text
- https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/FSA%2021-12-14%20-%20LA%20Recovery%20Plan%20Update%20.pdf Return to text
- https://www.food.gov.uk/about-us/food-and-feed-codes-of-practice Return to text
- https://www.food.gov.uk/contact/businesses/report-safety-concern/report-a-food-crime Return to text
- https://www.gov.uk/guidance/local-regulation-primary-authority Return to text
- https://www.food.gov.uk/about-us/food-and-feed-codes-of-practice Return to text