Examination of Witnesses (Questions 840
MONDAY 15 MARCH 1999
and DR DICK
840. Including Public Health Laboratory
(Professor Duerden) Public Health Laboratory Service
laboratories are not food producing establishments. Am I not right
in thinking that the power of entry would be to places where food
was being prepared and stored?
(Professor Gilbert) No, in fairness they would
have the powers to visit our labs. I do not think we would be
concerned at all. I think they would really be coming to look
at our records and laboratory results. Obviously all of our laboratories
have full accreditation. We are officially controlled under EU
legislation but if the FSA inspectors, or anybody else, officials,
wanted to visit our labs at any time to look at our records I
would have no problem with that.
841. You think the fact it will have the
power to inspect other premises as well is a good thing?
(Professor Gilbert) It is a good thing up to a
point. It is when you get to medical records and confidentiality
where it becomes a little bit difficult. I do not think laboratories
should be treated any differently. We will stand up to inspections
like anybody else.
842. You mentioned one problem which is
the confidentiality of records. Do you see any other difficulties
that could arise from the inspection procedure?
(Dr Mayon-White) One of the things that I would
be wishing to have clarified in the legislation is that it refers
to an authorised person and I think an authorised person reading
medical records needs medical knowledge. Otherwise the food handler
may be unfairly penalised or the medical problem may be totally
misunderstood. I think it is very unclear to me reading this whether
the authorised person would have sufficient medical knowledge.
I suspect that person would not have and therefore the Food Standards
Agency will need to have a link to somebody who can provide that
843. Would you like to see that specifically
enshrined in the Bill?
(Dr Mayon-White) I believe it should be. There
is it seems to me an understanding with the public at large that
medical records are examined by medical or health service people
and that if somebody else looks at them that person is looking
at them with a medical background either with the explicit consent
of the individual patient (person who is ill) or because the health
professional looking at them is closely allied to the doctor who
is looking after the patient. I think it will cause difficulties
if an inspector who is a Food Standards Agency inspector is perceived
as looking at people's medical records as held by the employer.
That would seem to me to inhibit the reporting of illness by the
food handlers and therefore increase the risks of food hazards
from an infected food handler.
844. So you are not currently completely
satisfied that the Bill is worded properly in this area?
(Dr Mayon-White) No.
(Professor Gilbert) I think one of the other things
is the way the Bill is worded when it talks about powers to carry
out observations, the officials would be able to go in and take
samples of food, water and the environment but they will not be
able to measure a temperature. They will not have the authority
to take measurements. This is part of our written evidence. That
seems to me to be an unfortunate omission at the moment.
Dr Stoate: Thank you,
Chairman: Could I
thank you all very much indeed for giving evidence. I hope that
if our report does not reflect everything that has been said this
afternoon, and I am sure some of it will be, the Agency if it
is set up will look in detail at the evidence you have given here
this afternoon. Thank you very much.