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EU Food Hygiene Legislation

Volume 451: debated on Wednesday 1 November 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much has been allocated to implement the revised EU food hygiene legislation that came into force on 1 January; how much has been spent on such implementation to date; and if she will make a statement. (96767)

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has policy responsibility for the new food hygiene regulation that came into effect on 1 January 2006, replacing and simplifying previous legislation. Enforcement of the legislation is largely through local authorities (LAs) that are provided with funds for this purpose as part of their revenue support grant.

The board of the FSA discussed implementation of the regulation at its open meeting in March 2005 and agreed a package of additional measures to assist the food industry, focused on small businesses. Details of this discussion are available in a paper that has previously been placed in the Library of the House, and can be also found on the FSA website at: www.food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/fsa050302.pdf.

The main change for food businesses resulting from the new legislation is the requirement to have documented food safety management procedures in place that assure good hygiene standards so as to protect consumers. It is for businesses to make arrangements to comply with the new legislation and most larger businesses already had effective systems in place.

In England, a support programme called “Safer Food Better Business” has been launched to help small catering and retail businesses. £11.5 million has been allocated to this programme over three years starting in September 2005. The main elements of the programme are free guidance packs for businesses along with a special grants scheme that supports LAs to provide training and advice. Up to October 2006, 175,000 packs have been distributed free of charge to businesses and 86 projects involving 254 LAs, some two-thirds of the total number have been funded, directly supporting over 52,000 small businesses.

Grants were awarded to projects run by LAs following appraisals of applications. Appraisals were carried out by the FSA assisted by stakeholders, including the British Hospitality Association (BHA), the Local Authority Co-ordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) and an independent academic expert. Not all applications were successful. Between September 2005 and October 2006 just over £3.5 million had actually been spent. All figures exclude value added tax (VAT).

Similar schemes to support businesses are in place in other countries in the United Kingdom.

Details of the “Safer Food Better Business” grants can be found on the FSA website at: www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2006/sep/foodsafetycash.

In addition, the new regulation applies to farmers and growers, in many cases for the first time. In England, the FSA has allocated £1.2 million excluding VAT in 2006-07 to train local authority officers to undertake this new work and to directly support inspections. This funding is likely to remain in place until arrangements have been made to provide funding through the revenue support grant from 2008-09. Plans to deliver this activity are under way from late 2006. No money had actually been spent up to October 2006.