It’s the job of local authority Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) to inspect, sample and organising the testing of food in the food premises in their area. The dire impact of austerity measures from 2010 onwards means this work is underfunded, but we don’t know to what extent.
The relevant data, once easily accessible, has proved impossible for us to find.
Birmingham City Council, to their credit, took on boards our criticism that their draft strategy didn’t even mention food safety, assurance or integrity, and it should do. As part of their recently published fincal version of their Food System Strategy, they have set up a food safety and standards action work stream.
We have suggested that, as a start, their officials should publish information on figures over time from 2015 (when the Food Standard’s Agency ran a special audit on the City Council) to now:
- Numbers of EHOs employed by the City Council, their churn rate and how many work on food matters.
- Inspections, sampling, testing and prosecutions, successful or otherwise
- What data they have submitted to the Local Authority Enforcement Management System (LAEMS) and when.
- Reported and estimated food poisoining incidences. Hospitalisations and mortalities (with ages of patients).
- Number of employees at the City Labs and their qualifications. Ditto regarding other laboratories the City Council have used.
- Public Analysts they have contracted with, on which case and when.
- Reports, if any, to the National Food Crime Unit.
- Comparison of these Birmingham figures with those from other local authorities.
We’ve indicated that until and unless this information is in an accessible form before the Action Work Stream has its first meeting, they cannot know where to start.
And, if the City Council either hasn’t got or will not supply this information, it’s a serious matter about which the Work Stream members, and others, will need an explanation in order to support the Council in its endeavours to ensure food safety, assurance and integrity in the city.
The image above is a close up of salmonella bacteria, a critter you really don’t want in any numbers inside you.