Food law enforcement plan
The Scope of the Food Law Enforcement Service
The following functions are undertaken:
- Food premises registration
- Approval of premises covered by product specific legislation
- Programmed food hygiene and standards inspections (and follow-up compliance checks)
- Administration of the national Food Hygiene Rating Scheme for food businesses
- Food sampling (for microbiological quality/safety and food standards)
- Shellfish sampling (by the Port Health Team)
- Investigation of complaints concerning the hygiene of food premises, unfit or contaminated food and concerning the quality, composition, labelling or advertising of food
- Investigation of incidents and outbreaks food poisoning and other food related infectious diseases
- Investigation of zoonoses
- Food alerts
- Advisory visits
- Provision of information on, and promotion of, food hygiene and standards
- Advice in respect of planning applications
- Voluntary surrender of foods
- Statistical reporting
2.4 Demands on the Service
The majority of food premises are required to register with the Council, and details of all known food premises are held on an electronic database (Tascomi), which assists with planning the service. 2835 food premises were recorded as registered on this database on 1st April 2022 and, as the following chart illustrates, the majority of these food premises are catering establishments, including the local hospital, schools, residential and nursing homes, hotels and guesthouses, restaurants and takeaways, and pubs and clubs. This reflects an increase of 485 premises from the most recent (pre Covid) Service plan, where there were 2350 registered premises.
Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Delivery of Food Service
When the Covid-19 Pandemic emerged in March 2020, there was an immediate impact on the ability of the Food Team to continue to delivery its routine inspection programme. On a national level routine inspection work was suspended due to risks to staff and the public arising from the face to face interactions which occur during inspections. Shortly afterwards, rules were introduced which closed the majority of food premises.
Periodic advice was provided by the Food Standards Agency, to local authorities on priority work which needed to be undertaken such as providing a response to serious food incidents, serious food complaints, dealing with applications from businesses who needed to be approved before trading could commence.
Also during the early period of the pandemic, officers from the Food Team were involved in the enforcement and provision of advice to local businesses relating to compliance with the raft of new Covid-19-specific legislation that was introduced, both in terms of the types of premises who could trade, and also for those premises the additional requirements that they needed to adhere to, to minimise risk.
Another key part of the Department’s resources was dedicated to working with care homes across Pembrokeshire to ensure that they had adequate arrangements in place to manage clusters or outbreaks of Covid-19 in their settings, also to ensure that care home managers were aware of all requirements on them and the availability of key infection control guidance and advise on the provision and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), to control spread of Covid-19.
From June 2020 there was a Contact Tracing Service called Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) created across Wales and within Pembrokeshire. Officers from the Food Team were seconded partly and in some cases fully to work on this key aspect of the management of Covid-19.
A full summary of the staffing changes and the impact of secondments and sickness is provided in Section.
Breakdown of premises by Type as at 1 April 2022
- Restaurant and caterers other (18%)
- Restaurant/cafe/canteen (17%)
- Small retailer (14%)
- Hotel/guest house (9%)
- Caring premises (8%)
- Pub/club (7%)
- Mobile food unit (6%)
- Manufacturers and packers (5%)
- Primary producer (4%)
- Takeaway (4%)
- Retailer/other (3%)
- School/college (3%)
- Supermarket/hypermarket (1%)
- Distributors/transporters (1%)
All bar a handful of premises fall to the local Authority for both food hygiene and food standards enforcement.
In addition to these permanent premises, the Food Safety and Standards Team will monitor food operations at various temporary events such as markets, shows and festivals where food businesses from outside the County trade alongside local businesses.
169 food premises within the County (6%) are recorded as being seasonal, generally operating from April through to the end of September. This puts increased pressure on the service over this period and can impede completing the planned inspection programme for some seasonal premises, if other competing pressures arise.
In addition, numerous businesses operate during the evening only. Tascomi does not record the number of such businesses at present.
129 (5%) of food businesses are classed as manufacturers. In addition to the approved manufacturing premises referred to below, these include: bakeries, jam/preserve manufacturers, confectionery manufacturers, non-approved ice cream manufacturers, sandwich producers, vegetable preparation, a spring/mineral water bottling plant, chocolate manufacturers, an insect biscuit manufacturer, a distillery and a number of breweries.
As of 1st April 2022, 35 food premises are approved under product specific regulations: 6 dairy product establishments, 3 meat product establishments, 11 fish/shellfish establishments, 4 cold stores and 11 approved egg producers. The milk product establishments include 3 cheese producers (one of which also supplies raw cows drinking milk), 1 ice-cream manufacturer, 1 milk pasteurisation and bottling plant and 1 premises engaged in cutting and packaging of cheese. The meat product establishments include 1 sandwich manufacturer selling some products which fall into the category requiring approval, 1 biltong manufacturer and 1 beef jerky manufacturer selling to wholesale outlets and retailers. Officers inspecting and approving approved premises require additional knowledge and expertise. Specialist training has been provided to officers in the Food Safety and Standards Team who have been selected to lead in these areas and this has been progressively rolled out to other staff. In addition, inspections of approved premises are generally undertaken in pairs, using these visits as an opportunity to share and develop knowledge of the production processes involved, building resilience and promoting consistency across the Team.
There are 5 seasonal slaughterers, of geese and turkeys, exempt from approval requirements.
231 (10%) of premises are “caring premises” – such as residential care/nursing homes, childminders and nurseries These premises are also registered with and inspected by the Care Inspectorate Wales, with liaison taking place as appropriate.
The County has a relatively small number of ethnic businesses that require information/advice in languages other than Welsh and/or English. A range of guidance leaflets, business packs and DVDs are made available to these businesses in the appropriate languages, where available, to assist their understanding and promote compliance. The Authority also has access to translation and interpreter services that are utilised when necessary.
Significant work has previously been required to support the classification and monitoring of shellfish production areas, to enable the commercial harvesting of these shellfish for human consumption. However, over the last four years no licences for the commercial harvesting of shellfish in the Cleddau Estuary (the location of all classified sites) have been issued by Welsh Government, as a result of environmental concerns, and monitoring has been suspended.
Responsibility for this work lies with the Port Health Team and further details can be found in the Port Health Service Plan.
2.5 Exit from the EU
Over the past few years, national preparations have taken place in readiness for the UK’s exit from the EU, with EU food regulations brought into UK law, to ensure all regulatory functions can be discharged.
The implications locally will depend on the outcome of negotiations and discussions on the need for border controls between Eire and mainland UK, relating to whether food will be able to move freely across the border, or whether additional checks will be necessary at the point of entry into mainland UK. This may create significant new demands on the service at the County’s two ports of entry from Eire, i.e. Port of Pembroke and Fishguard. These decisions are being made on a national level, and it has been determined that foods will have to be checked at borders or at their first point of destination within the UK.
Discussions are ongoing with regard to establishing Border Control Post facilities to serve these two ports which are needed to monitor the import of foods to the UK from the EU (Ireland). It is anticipated that significant additional staffing will need to be sourced to operate Border Control Posts within Pembrokeshire, as well as the siting of suitable facilities, which again is currently being determined. Further to an announcement by the UK Government in April 2022, the implementation of controls at the borders with Ireland have been delayed until late 2023.