Budget cuts lead to huge backlog in Fife food hygiene inspections

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Concerns have been raised over food safety in Fife after more than half of the inspections of the kingdom’s 4000 food premises were found to be overdue last year.

An audit carried out by Food Standards Scotland confirmed there were 2,283 establishments in Fife awaiting food hygiene inspections in August 2018, while a further 272 premises were unrated as they had yet to be inspected.  Sixty of the locations overdue were said to be in the “high risk” A and B categories, while there were 114 category C, 766 category D and 1,343 category E food premises also awaiting official controls.

Although the audit noted elements of good practice, including training processes, inspectors found that procedures and documentation provided for them were out of date – with material dated 2011 predating the 2015 Food Law Code of Practice.

Inspectors noted there had been a 21% reduction in the budget for food activities between 2014/15 and 2018/19, with funding slashed from £635,000 to less than £500,000 in that period. As a result, the audit concluded Fife’s environmental health resources, including staff, for conducting official controls are currently “insufficient” to achieve the requirements of the Food Law Code of Practice (Scotland) 2015 and Regulation (EC) 882/2004 of The European Parliament.

Lib Dem Councillor Tim Brett, chair of Fife Council’s scrutiny committee, said the critical report has now raised serious concerns about the capacity of local food and law enforcement services. “I hope that vigorous action is being taken to address the concerns which the inspectors highlighted as we all rely on this important service,” he added.

Food hygiene data indicated that there were 4,325 premises listed on the food premises database for Fife as of August 2018. Most inspections are of restaurants but also include are any establishments which handle unpacked food including farms, manufacturers and catering companies.

In response to the criticism, SNP Councillor Ross Vettraino, convener of Fife Council’s environment, protective services and community safety committee, commented: “The council’s environmental health officers are fully committed to their task and are properly prioritising the challenges, with which they are faced”.

“It is important to note that the audit recognised that all of the work which is essential to protect the community is being carried out. The terms of the audit and the progress towards resolving the difficulties will be reported to the next meeting of the environment, protective services and community safety committee.”

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