SStefano took the paper as read and provided an overview of the report, noting that the Food Standards Agency has provided a roadmap for recovery for all local authorities post-Covid and requires that the food service plan be suitably approved. The service plan is to ensure that DBC meets the framework requirements and resources are allocated. Priorities changed in early 2022 and resources that were diverted to the pandemic have now returned to the team, and the team will continue to follow the Covid recovery guidance issued by the Food Standards Agency. The guidance covers the period from 1st July 2021 to 2023-24. There is a small level of uncertainty regarding the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and objectives may need to change throughout the year, though the food team is generally returning to business as usual on food controls rather than focusing on recovery.
SStefano advised that the team continues to meet or exceed the timeframes for objectives within the recovery plan and asked approval from the Committee on the continued use of the Food Standards Agency Covid-19 Recovery Plan to guide the work of the Food Safety team, as detailed in the Food Service Recovery Plan.
A comment was raised regarding Covid-19 as detailed on page 12 of the report and what requirements are missing from the Food Safety Service Authority Recovery Plan by continuing with the Covid-19 Local Authority Recovery Plan, and if this includes the hygiene safety certification of the businesses providing food services to the public. SStefano advised that they are now in the position where they are exceeding the recovery plan and are now fully staffed in the Food Safety team. SStefano continued that they are using containment outbreak management funding to fund additional contractors to assist with inspections. The report was written in June 2022 and the service has moved on considerably, and SStefano confirmed that they are looking to return to business as usual as early as June 2023. If a complaint is received, this will be followed up in the usual manner, and all A, B and C premises are prioritised for inspection due to their higher risk, and D premises are being inspected where possible. With regards to the impact to public health, SStefano advised that the situation is being managed well, particularly in comparison to other local authorities.
In response to a question regarding the Food Hygiene Rating, SStefano confirmed that they follow the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and that these inspections are continuing.
A question was asked on if there is a proactive programme to re-test existing businesses given that many businesses have changed during Covid. SStefano explained that whilst they are working towards the Recovery Plan, they are still running their usual regime alongside, though they are slightly behind. There is no expectation in the Recovery Plan for D-rated premises to be inspected, though they are still being inspected. On re-testing premises, it was noted that businesses would need to re-register and they would be inspected when their inspection is due. SStefano confirmed that the legal requirement is for the business to register 28 days before trading.
The Chair referred to paragraph 2.8 in the report and queried the statement that they would be following the Covid-19 Local Recovery Plan instead of the full Food Safety Plan. SStefano explained that each premises inspected will receive an intervention rating based on risk with A-rated premises inspected every 6 months and D-rated every 2 years. The FSA have set certain timelines that have to be met and the team is working towards these in parallel.
Cllr Stevens commented on the Recovery Plan on page 16 of the report and asked for examples for the different categories detailed. SStefano advised that category A could be a very good manufacturer with high-risk processes or a premises that is non-compliant. Category B could be a premises that is non-compliant, such as not having a food safety management system, and a premises that has good compliance but serves food to a vulnerable group, thereby increasing the need for inspection. C-rated premises are typically cafes or kebab shops, with D-rated premises being typically schools and larger supermarkets.
Cllr Riddick referred to item 2.5 on page 12 of the report regarding the Covid-19 impact on the food service recovery plan and the comment that objectives have not been fully met due to the diversion of resources to help the council with the Covid-19 response. Cllr Riddick noted his concerns that if the report is not accepted then there would be serious problems and asked how they would ensure there are the resources to address the issues. SStefano advised that progress has been made since the report was written and they now have a full team as well as additional contractors. SStefano noted that they are focusing on more higher-risk premises that are registering with the council, which may mean they are not visiting lower-risk premises.
Cllr Riddick noted that a number of complaints have reduced as members of the public tend to take their complaints to the manufacturers and advised that this doesn't help address the issue. It was advised that some issues are with the manufacturer and would therefore need to be handled by them.
A question was asked on if the team carries out any sampling of food. SStefano confirmed that DBC handle hygiene and that HCC Trading Standards handle food standards. HCC have a team that will randomly sample premises to check the quality of food. If DBC receive complaints then they will liaise with the HCC team to then follow up.
Cllr Timmis queried how markets are checked. SStefano advised that this would depend on if the business is registered with DBC as food businesses will typically register where they live. The team will follow-up on complaints and are looking to return to more proactive inspections at events, though the current focus is on fixed premises and stalls that are registered with DBC. It was also noted that there is communication between local authorities to follow-up on any concerns.
The Chair asked what the offence is if a business does not register with the local authority. SStefano stated that a graduated approach is taken with the first step being to advise and educate. If a business continues to not comply then this will be graduated up to more formal action.
In response to a question on farmers' markets, SStefano noted that these are usually treated in the same ways as mobile traders. For farmers' markets that take place in community centres, if the organiser has registered as a fixed premises then they are likely to fall under the inspection regime.
Cllr Riddick referred to page 16 of the report and the comment that urgent reactive food safety work will increase as restrictions in the hospitality sector are lifted and that a number of revisits have been undertaken. On the increased activity, SStefano advised that they have received service complaints from customers, such as pests being present in premises. It was noted that this is a national issue. EWalker advised that they have struggled in previous years to find fully qualified environmental health officers, though the team is currently fully staffed and they are also working with three consultants to assist with the backlog. EWalker stated that the team is in a strong position and she noted her optimism on being able to deliver the service plan.
Cllr Riddick commented that the report suggests only one member of staff has received specialist training. SStefano confirmed that all staff have to do relevant training to ensure they are up to date and comply with the competency framework in the Food Law Code of Practice. Cllr Riddick asked if officers receiving additional training were doing it during their own time or were being released from work to do so. EWalker confirmed that there is department training where staff are on day release, and other training is completed in their own time whether they are studying for their Bachelors or Masters degree. On CPD training, 20 hours per year is completed in work time as this is required for the role and staff can't prove their food competency without it. SStefano added that they will ensure the service is fully covered when people are undergoing training.
Cllr Rogers commented on online food ordering, noting page 31 of the report and the increased pressure on the team due to the FHRS qualification rating requirement. SStefano stated that if a premises receives a low score then this will put pressure on the team as the premises may appeal the rating or apply for a re-score revisit, which has to be completed within 3 months. SStefano confirmed that they will only carry out a revisit if they are satisfied that the work has been undertaken to comply with the legislation. It was confirmed that premises have to pay £185 for a re-score revisit.
Cllr Rogers noted the 213 new applicants and asked how long they can trade without being approved by the team. SStefano stated that applicants should register 28 days before they trade and that the team should visit them within a 28-day or 6-week period, and whilst this is not happening for all applicants, it is for high-risk premises and the aim is to bring this back for all businesses. It was noted that, with Covid-19 and now the cost-of-living crisis, people are looking to diversify and the team is therefore seeing an increase in home catering.
The Chair asked if all complaints are responded to. SStefano confirmed that the complaint would be risk-rated.
Cllr Riddick referred to page 38 of the report and the table regarding the enforcement action taken in 2021-22. Cllr Riddick noted that 247 written warnings were issued and asked if these were followed up. SStefano advised that it will depend on the nature of the warning and that compliance revisits are typically carried out when a premises scores less than 3. EWalker added that premises that score higher tend to be more responsive.
EWalker, SStefano and RConnolly left the meeting.