Skip to main content

Food Safety (Local Authorities)

Volume 584: debated on Tuesday 15 July 2014

3. What assessment he has made of the adequacy of resources made available by local authorities for the regulation of food safety. (904850)

The allocation of local authority food law resources is a local matter. Authorities are increasingly using a risk-based approach to target these resources and looking at ways in which they can work smarter. The Food Standards Agency monitors and audits local authority controls to ensure appropriate resources are in place effectively to regulate food safety.

Food safety standards in this country are generally very good, happily, but that is very much dependent on the work of local authorities and of laboratories. What consideration has she given to the recommendations of the interim Elliott review that there should be better coordination and integration of local authorities and also, possibly, a public analyst service?

Obviously we are awaiting the final Elliott report but, as my hon. Friend would expect, consideration is being given across government to the interim report. The Government are committed to improving co-ordination and intelligence sharing. We can see some of that in, for example, smart back-office sharing, on which his authority, I believe, has taken a lead. We are working across government, local authorities and industry to protect food integrity. Professor Elliott said that we have one of the safest systems in the world but there is always more we can do to work more closely together. I know that the FSA is working more closely with local authorities and that Public Health England has begun to have constructive discussions around the issues. But we will obviously respond in more detail when we have the final report.

Sugar is one of the most deadly parts of our daily diets. What can be done to regulate the amount of sugar in our diets locally that will result in a decrease in the number of people with diabetes?

I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the creativity with which he has introduced sugar into this question. He is right to highlight the fact that sugar is an important factor in considering how we get the nation healthier, which we see in the overall context of trying to encourage people to consume fewer calories. A lot of work has been done. He will be aware that we have just had a very detailed scientific report on sugar and carbohydrates more generally. We are considering that but he will be pleased to know that Public Health England has already started to roll out that advice at both a local and national level to consumers and families. We will of course consider what more we might do.

Does my hon. Friend share our concern on the Select Committee that not enough regular food analysis is being done by local authorities? Will her Department press for this to prevent any further adulteration or food scares in the future?

We have discussed this with the FSA and we will respond in more detail when we have the final Elliott review. But it is worth noting that the FSA is supporting local authorities financially and with expertise, but is also very much encouraging people to work smarter so that a lot of inspection is based far more on risk. That is right, as we do not want businesses with excellent records of compliance being subjected to the same regime of testing and inspection as those who give rise to greater risk. I hope my hon. Friend would agree that an intelligence-led approach is the right thing to do.