Select Committee on Food Standards First Report


Submitted by Jeremy C Leach


  1.1 I am an Environmental Health Manager working for Wealden District Council in East Sussex. I qualified in 1978 from the University of West of England (formerly Bristol Polytechnic) and have been involved in food law enforcement and education for the majority of the last 19 years. Since qualifying I have gained a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology and for the past four years I have been studying for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Brighton. The subject of my research is public and professional perceptions of food hygiene in public eating places. I am a Corporate Member of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Health.

  1.2 The views expressed in this evidence are those of the author and not the Wealden District Council.

  1.3 I have decided not to comment section by section of the Bill, but to make more generalised comments which I hope will be useful, with a particular focus on the proposals for a levy scheme for recovering costs from the food industry.


  2.1 I broadly welcome the proposals concerning the setting-up of a Food Standards Agency. In particular I welcome the main objective of the Agency being to protect public health.

  2.2 I have no objection to the proposals that the Food Standards Agency will have powers to monitor and regulate the performance of local authorities in respect of enforcement work, this is considered essential. However I would not welcome any subsequent developments in relation to a centralised inspection service. The current arrangements work well, a locally based inspection service is more accountable to the people they serve. The status quo is also in-line with the Government's White Paper, "Modern Local Government—In Touch with the People" (Cm 4014). This White Paper adds strength to an approach based on the close relationship between local government and the communities they serve.

  2.3 In my view there must be a mechanism for links to be made between the proposed Food Standards Agency and the Department for Education and Employment. This should be featured in the Bill or agreed at Ministerial level. There is a considerable weight of evidence and argument for food hygiene education to be introduced uniformly in schools.


  3.1 I am opposed to the introduction of an annual levy scheme on food businesses. The principal reason for the setting-up of a Food Standards Agency is to end the conflict of interest which it is said the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food may have, and to restore public confidence in the Government to provide safe food. The credibility of the new Food Standards Agency, in my view, will be diluted, if a major part of its funds emanate from the food industry. The public will evidence that as influence. Once those seeds of doubt are sown it will be difficult to stop them growing.

  3.2 The collection of the levy will impose further administrative pressure on already hard pressed local authority environmental health departments and be an added source of conflict between those departments and local businesses.

  3.3 If the Government is minded to introduce a levy then it is noted that the proposed levy does not apply to all groups of food businesses, for example food manufacturers, this in my view is inequitable.

  3.4 It is not clear how the proposed levy will affect butchers shops which may also be subject to a licence fee later this year, when Regulations are to be introduced.

  3.5 There is no attachment to the levy of improved standards which in my view is an opportunity missed. Consequently there are no rewards for premises demonstrating high standards of food hygiene over those with lower standards.

March 1999

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries

© Parliamentary copyright 1999
Prepared 12 April 1999