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Food Hygiene

Volume 176: debated on Wednesday 18 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will make a statement about progress on the proposed amendments to the Food Hygiene Regulations.

I have today laid before Parliament the Food Hygiene (Amendment) Regulations 1990—S.I. 1431. These will introduce for the first time a system of temperature controls throughout the food chain, and especially during storage, distribution and retail sale in order to minimise the opportunity for growth of pathogenic micro-organisms such as listeria and salmonella. There will be a phased implementation of the provisions to allow all businesses time to ensure that their refrigeration equipment can keep food at the required temperatures.

Basildon and Thurrock DHA1
YearAverage daily number of available hospital beds2Discharges and deaths2Hospital nursing and midwifery staff (WTE)3Hospital medical and dental consultants (WTE)4Administration and clerical staff (WTE)

From 1 April 1991 all foods covered by the Regulations must be kept at or below 8 deg. Centigrade. The foods concerned include all ready prepared meals, soft cheeses, cooked meats, pates and prepared salads.

From 1 April 1993, the foods which are most at risk of contamination with listeria must be kept at or below 5 deg. Centigrade. These foods include soft cheeses, pates and other prepared foods which are to be eaten without further cooking.

From 1 April 1992, small delivery vehicles—less than 7.5 tonnes gross weight—will be required to deliver foods in the controlled categories within the 8 deg. Centigrade limit but the regulations as laid will exempt small delivery vehicles making local deliveries from complying with the 5 deg. Centigrade requirement. This provision will be kept under review as the technology develops which would allow small delivery vehicles to comply.

In all cases there is a 2 deg. Centigrade tolerance to the specified temperatures to allow for the defrost cycle or for the temporary breakdown of the equipment. movement of the food or a step in processing.

There are exemptions from these temperature provisions for example for canned food and dehydrated foods. Freshly prepared foods do not have to comply with the temperature requirements for limited periods of time.

The regulations also require foods which are to be served hot to be kept at or above 63 deg. Centigrade.

The regulations contain detailed provisions. so that everyone affected will know what is required of them, including manufacturers, retailers, caterers, distributors and enforcement officers, the Department of Health is consulting on guidelines for that purpose. These will give details of the foods which are subject to the temperature controls and suggest ways of monitoring refrigeration equipment to ensure that the temperatures are being met. Copies of the draft guidelines will be made available in the Library of the House.

The temperature control provisions introduced by these regulations are a further step forward in ensuring the safety of our food. They are the first statutory temperature controls for most food businesses. We intend to keep their operation and effectiveness under review in the light of experience and any related European Community measures subsequently introduced.