UK’s Food Standard Agency (FSA) reported that local authorities (LAs) in England are less capable of dealing with food standards issues when compared with Wales and Northern Ireland.

FSA conducted a survey of all local authorities (LAs) across the three countries (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) and 104 LAs answered. The survey was conducted in order to analyse how LAs plan and prioritise their food standards, what resources and capacity they have and how they measure the success of their programmes.

The survey found that levels of food standards resources in England are lower than in Wales and Northern Ireland. The survey reported that 22% of English LAs have no Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) person dedicated to food standards work.

About 15% of food businesses are not rated for food standards risk, and the figures for some LAs are even higher.

“Our results show that food standards delivery is hampered by inadequate resources, and an out-of-date and inflexible approach to regulation.”

FSA chairman Heather Hancock said: “We have had growing concerns that the delivery of food standards is not working as well as it should be. This survey provides evidence of the scale and nature of the problems, evidence on which we can design and deliver a better way to protect consumers in the future.

“Our results show that food standards delivery is hampered by inadequate resources, and an out-of-date and inflexible approach to regulation.  Whilst the position varies across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, it clearly demands action and we can’t just patch this up.”

The survey pointed out there is a need to look at ways of providing better protection to consumers in the future, and flexible approaches in order to respond to rapidly changing circumstances and targeting risks wherever they arise.

Hancock added: “Addressing food standards will become the next priority in our programme to reform and improve food regulation.”

FSA has also found that LAs are facing issues in recruiting qualified officers and 57% of LAs were not in a position to support a student through the qualification process.

The FSA board is expected to discuss the review and the survey findings on 5 December to agree on a way forward.