An uncomfortable read: The City Council’s Food Law Enforcement Plan 2023-2024

Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) are unsung heroes. Their role is as enforcers of the UK’s high food safety, assurance and integrity standards — we depend on their expertise and vigilance to keep our food safe, and to make sure that the food we buy is what the label or menu says it is.

But the work of our brilliant EHOs in Birmingham, as in other local authorities is severely compromised by  lack of resources.

So how is their work going?

We’ve taken a look at the Food Law Enforcement Plan (FELP) for 2023-2024, which was formally agreed by the City Council’s Licensing and Public Protection Committee on 28th June 2023. (1) (2)

It’s not a comforting read. For example:

  • There is a ‘reduction in food safety activity‘ that will have a ‘direct impact’ on ‘food safety‘ and ‘other priorities including economic success, staying safe and being healthy

And that

  • there are a large number of businesses, and therefore consumers, who are not being protected. This is particularly critical for those consumers with an allergy as the consequences can be potentially fatal.
  • It’s not only allergens that are hazardous. Food poisoning results in days off work with some people hospitalised and deaths every year. As we’ve said before, the UK stats, once easily accessible, have proved impossibly for us to find. Nonetheless:
    • Nonetheless, here in Birmingham, the FELP states: ‘The number of reported outbreaks of infections [food-borne] disease has increased this year.’

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We have annotated the FELP by highlighting key parts of the text in yellow (info), orange (of concern) and red (health and/or economic risk). We’ve also added  few questions which need answering.

This annotated version can be accessed here, and two sample pages are below:

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(1) This state of affairs begs the question as to why they agreed to it, given its contents. Fear of rocking the boat, speaking truth to power?

(2) This post is testament to our role as a critical friend to, among others, the City Council. Sometimes that does means we speak out out when and where they feel they cannot.

 

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The Birmingham Food Council is a Community Interest Company registered in England and Wales number 8931789