150 food hygiene letters issued in South Lakeland

Traders in South Lakeland were slapped with written warnings on food hygiene issues more than 150 times last year, figures reveal.

The Food Standards Agency carries out planned visits to businesses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to ensure they are complying with food safety and hygiene laws.

If a business is not meeting requirements the agency can take a range of actions, from informal steps such as advice and guidance or a written warning, to closure or even prosecution in the most serious cases.

Any potential breach of food hygiene regulations can prompt an informal warning, including problems with cleanliness, record keeping and separation of cooked and raw foods.

Officials consider the seriousness of the case, as well as the co-operation of the business, before deciding on what further action to take.

FSA data shows that 159 informal written warnings were handed out to food businesses across South Lakeland in 2019-20.

And inspectors took formal enforcement action against traders on four occasions.

This included:

Two voluntary closures

One seizure of food not fit for consumption

One hygiene improvement notice

Restaurants and caterers make up the majority of businesses inspected nationally, but any establishment which handles unpacked food including farms and manufacturers can be subject to a visit.

In total, 151,300 written warnings were handed out across England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year, and 4,800 formal enforcement actions were taken.

While the latest figures only cover a small period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FSA said the crisis created “unprecedented challenges for local authorities in delivering their statutory food functions”, with councils advisedd to postpone some planned inspections during the first national lockdown period.

A planned radical overhaul of the way food businesses are regulated has also been affected by the pandemic, the agency said.

A pilot study to help establish new policies and standards was due to begin this year, but has been postponed until 2021.

Maria Jennings, director of regulatory compliance at the FSA, said: “Whilst the latest figures are not dissimilar to those from in 2018-19, we acknowledge that Covid-19 has clearly created significant pressures on local authorities since the end of March.

“We’ll be considering the impact the pandemic has had on their resources and on delivering their statutory responsibilities in relation to food at the FSA Board’s business committee meeting on December 8.”

The Westmorland Gazette | News