Food standards checks praised

A NATIONAL agency has praised a council for the work being done to improve food standards.

Hartlepool Borough Council has been praised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) after a recent inspection of its enforcement service.

The FSA oversees local authority’s enforcement activity around food standards and carries out audits to ensure the public is being protected.

An inspection of the council’s food law enforcement service found there were “several” potential areas of good practice.

Plans covering 2008-12 were looked at and the FSA found each provided a “thorough and comprehensive” review of the food safety service provided by the council.

The audit also found database and record checks demonstrated a “robust system” for accessing past records about food premises in town.

It added that there was a “very high” standard of record keeping.

Labour councillor Ged Hall, portfolio holder for adult and public health services, noted the report at a recent meeting.

Coun Hall said: “I congratulate the department for the positives that have come out of the audit.

“It seems very positive and hopefully that will continue.”

Sylvia Pinkney, public protection manager, said: “One of the objectives of the audit programme was to identify any useful documents or practices that may be helpful to share with other authorities and several potential areas of good practice were identified during the visit.”

Areas of good practice included the development of a detailed inspection focused on businesses food safety management systems and a system for scanning and holding electronic food premises records.

A report to the meeting said the main aim of the audit is to “maintain and improve” consumer protection and confidence.

In October last year, the FSA told the authority it intended to visit as part of a programme of follow-up visits on local authority enforcement monitoring systems returns.

The audit looked at service planning documents, the accuracy of the food premises database and returns made to the FSA.

Staff were interviewed and computer records checked during the November audit.