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Trading Standards Food Service Plan 2019-20

1. Service aims and objectives

Ensuring good levels of food standards and safety is an important part of Dorset Council Trading Standards’ advisory and enforcement responsibilities.

Trading Standards has the responsibility for legislation controlling food quality and compositional standards, food safety including allergens, food labelling, food traceability and food hygiene regulations at primary production premises including arable farms and market gardens.

Other food hygiene responsibilities are with Environmental Health within Dorset Council.

This Food service plan is to be read as part of the overall Trading Standards Business Plan and is produced separately to assist elected members, consumers, businesses, staff etc. to focus on the key elements of our food responsibilities as well as meeting the specific needs of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and national legislation.

1.1 Aims and objectives

The Trading Standards aim is to provide a fair and safe trading environment for the consumers and businesses of Dorset, through education, advice, enforcement and partnership working. This is highlighted in the Trading Standards Business Plan 2019-20.

The key objectives of the Service in relation to food are to:

  • support business with compliance with food standards legislation, acting as home authority and /or Primary Authority for Dorset based businesses
  • respond to consumer complaints about food standards
  • carry out an effective risk based programme of sampling, analysis and checking of food for composition and labelling
  • carry out food standards interventions in accordance with Food Standards Agency (FSA) and National Trading Standards (NTS) risk assessments and having regard to best practice in Quality Management principles
  •  work in partnership with Central Government and other Local Government agencies in order to coordinate work and provide a seamless service to customers
  • carry out specific work to highlight areas of good or bad practice to the food trade and the public.

1.2 Links to corporate objectives

Ensuring the safety of the food chain by food standards work looking at allergens and labelling for example, contributes to the safety and health of people in Dorset. Activity to support local food businesses with advice and guidance, together with the monitoring of the food that they produce also reflects the commitment to a prosperous Dorset economy.

The new Dorset Council will be developing its policies, objectives and aims during the current year, particularly after the elections in May. Trading Standards will embrace emerging relevant corporate objectives but recognise the contribution that we can make towards the current aspirations and ambitions of Dorset Council to be ‘a place where people want to live, visit, learn and work’, with ‘an economy that works for local people’. The maintenance of fair and safe trading standards is a key part of ensuring that local economy works.

2. Background

2.1 Profile of Local Authority

On 1 April 2019, Dorset Council, replaced the district and borough councils (East Dorset, North Dorset, Purbeck, West Dorset, Weymouth and Portland) and Dorset County Council, which have ceased to exist.

Dorset Council covers an area of approximately 2000 km² and has a growing but also aging population of 375,050. The main urban areas are Weymouth, Dorchester and Wimborne and Ferndown.

Located in the South West with a designated World Heritage Status coastline, the area is largely rural with strong tourism and agricultural industries which are vital for the local economy.

The Trading Standards has approximately 14,183 businesses on its premises database of which 4,323 are identified as food premises.

As a unitary authority Dorset Council delivers the full range of local authority services.

2.2 Organisational structure

The Trading Standards team will become part of Regulatory Services once the new management structure is place.

The Trading Standards Service Manager will report to the Head of Regulatory Services, who has overall responsibility for a range of regulatory services and who in turn reports to a Corporate Director for Place Services who is managed by the Executive Director for Place. Until that structure is fully operational the Trading Standards team remains in the Directorate for People – Adults with temporary line management arrangements.

The Trading Standards Service Manager and other senior managers set the Enforcement policy and Service priorities, in consultation with the lead elected member for Trading Standards. The current lead member is Councillor Andrew Parry and such roles will be reviewed after the May elections.

The Trading Standards Service Manager, in conjunction with Principal Officers and the Lead Food Officer have agreed the 2019-20 service plan to include inspections, action to address complaints and service requests, sampling and project activities. Going forward in the new Dorset Council the means of agreeing such plans will be developed. Specialist staff working in the Operational Teams deliver, monitor and review all food work.

The structure of Trading Standards at 1 April 2019 is given below. It should be noted that not all posts are full time.

Trading Standards structure chart

TSO = Trading Standards Officer

TSEO = Trading Standards Enforcement Officer

AHO = Animal Health Officer

A & SO + Advice and Support Officer

SSO = Service Support Officer

The manager responsible for the delivery of official food controls is Mr I Hancock (Service Manager for Trading Standards).

The Lead Food Officer is Mrs P Norman (Senior Trading Standards Officer).

Public Analyst Services are provided by:

  • Mr S Dyer, Mrs J Green – Lewis, Ms R New (Hampshire Scientific Services)
  • Ms W E Moran, Mr K Wardle, Mr D Arthur, Mr N Payne, Ms J Hubbard, Ms L Downie , Ms M Evans (Public Analyst Scientific Services Ltd.)

2.3 Scope of the Food Service

Officers of Dorset Council Trading Standards are qualified and competent deliver the food standards enforcement function.

Trading Standards has no responsibility for food hygiene enforcement. This is the responsibility of the environmental Health officers who will be within Regulatory Services. There is a duty however placed upon Trading Standards to enforce food hygiene at primary production level, for example at market gardens.

Where appropriate, other relevant inspections (for example, product safety, pricing and weights and measures) are carried out at the time of the food standards inspection. This will depend upon the premises type and the risk assessment attached to that premises, along with the nature of the visit being undertaken. This provides a single inspection by Trading Standards of food premises in Dorset.

The relevant areas of the food service are delivered as follows:

  • food standards interventions are carried out by specialist staff that are qualified and competent in food law, some are also ISO9001, qualified auditors
  • officers with specialist expertise deliver inspections in relation to hygiene at primary production level.
  • Food analysis is carried out by a duly appointed Public Analysts
  • complaints from consumers are initially processed by Citizens Advice Consumer Services and transferred electronically to Trading Standards
  • complaints from businesses may also be received via the Consumer Advice Consumer Service or, Government department or agency (e.g. DEFRA, FSA, APHA), the EU commission (DG Health and Food Safety), other Trading Standards or Local Authority, or directly via the business advice line provided by Trading Standards

All food complaints received by Trading Standards are assessed and either assigned to a competent officer for appropriate action or recorded for intelligence purposes.

2.4 Demands on the Food Service

Dorset Council has a total of 4,323 food businesses, not including farms and these are all recorded on the Trading Standards CIVICA database. These break down, as of 5 March 2019, into the following risk groupings:

  • High Risk: 11
  • Upper Medium Risk: 149
  • Lower Medium Risk: 843
  • Low Risk: 3291

Contact Dorset Trading Standards

2.5 Enforcement Policy

The Trading Standards Enforcement Policy from Dorset County Council has been adopted by Dorset Council and will be reviewed during the year. The Enforcement Policy encompasses the requirements of the Regulators Compliance Code and the Code for Crown Prosecutors. It gives a clear commitment to ensuring compliance through business advice and guidance where possible and appropriate. Prosecution is reserved for cases involving fraud, negligence, public safety risk or failure to follow advice or warnings.

Our document ‘Dorset businesses. What you can expect from your local Trading Standards Service’ sets down our commitment to providing Dorset businesses with an efficient, courteous and helpful service. Read the Service delivery plan and other documents outlining our Trading Standards work.

Internal procedures incorporate a policy on potential conflicts of interest in respect of Council premises.

3. Service delivery

3.1 Interventions at food establishments

Each food premises is risk assessed using the Trading Standards National Risk Assessment Scheme.

Information available about each premises is held on the service’s Civica system.

We are committed to visiting all high-risk premises once a year and all upper medium risk food premises every two years. Trading Standards reviews its policy in relation to inspections (interventions) at business premises on an annual basis in accordance with the principles of better regulation and the Food Law Code of Practice (England) 2017.

All other food premises are contacted in a variety of ways such as intelligence led inspections, project visits, sampling visits, requests for visit from traders referrals from other enforcement agencies and via the e-magazine Gut reaction.

New food establishments will be added to the risk based inspection programme through the year and dealt with as per the Services written procedures.

Food businesses are visited only by those officers who satisfy the criteria set out in the Food Law Code of Practice (England) 2017.

A number of projects are undertaken each year driven by intelligence coming into the service and problems previously identified by officers. These projects are often linked specifically to food sampling.

The above measures are intended to focus available resources on the areas of greatest risk, using available intelligence.

Trading Standards has assessed the value of carrying out unannounced inspections as opposed to announced inspections. Where official controls take the form of an audit or there is a need to have the food business operator present e.g. so that records can be examined, then such visits will be announced, but prior notification will be kept to a minimum. In all other cases and in particular where previous visits or intelligence suggests that serious non- compliances have occurred, visits will be unannounced.

We currently have regulatory responsibility for a European protected food, Dorset Blue cheese/Dorset Blue Vinney cheese, and we ensure that the designation is used as set down in its approval and that others do not try to use that name fraudulently. In the event of EU exit approval of such designations may change.

3.2 Food complaints

A total of 48 food complaints were received in the year 2018-19 and it would be expected that a similar number would be received in 2019-20.

Food complaints are investigated by Trading Standards in line with documented procedures.

In accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice (England) 2017, procedures have been agreed and implemented throughout Dorset Council and Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council through the Food Liaison Group for the transfer of complaints between Services.

3.3 Home Authority and Primary Authority

Trading Standards accepts intelligence from other authorities about businesses based in Dorset. Any response and action will be in line with local priorities.

Primary Authority Partnerships are available to businesses where appropriate although none are currently in existence in relation to food standards.

Where businesses in Dorset have a Primary Authority Partnership, we will ensure that any intelligence received locally is passed to the relevant Primary Authority Service to enable them to take the necessary steps to ensure the business they have responsibility for is legally compliant.

When undertaking official controls at premises that have a Primary Authority relationship with another Authority, officers will take account of the requirements of the Primary Authority scheme and any assured advice or Inspection plan issued by the Primary Authority.

3.4 Providing advice to business

Trading Standards provides advice and information to all Dorset based businesses on a reactive and proactive basis. It works with businesses to help them comply with trading standards legislative requirements and encourages the use of best practice.

The Service received 100 food standards related service requests for help and information from businesses in 2018-19 and it is expected that a similar number will be received in 2019-20.

General compliance advice is provided:

  • during inspections and visits
  • over the telephone. Trading Standards operates a dedicated business advice line which is available to all businesses in Dorset and queries will be answered immediately if a competent officer is manning the telephone or allocated to a competent officer if that is not the case
  • in writing (for example by email or letter)
  •  appropriate links on ‘Dorset for You’, the Council website, notably the Business Companion site maintained by the Chartered Institute of Trading Standards. contain guidance leaflets which businesses can use and access. Where to other sites are provided
  • via our Twitter account @Dorset_TS
  • contact via the Trading Standards ‘Buy with Confidence’ trader approval scheme
  • Occasional presentations, workshops or other events involving local trade groups.
  • approaches are made to new businesses who have registered as new food businesses so that advice and support can be given as a form of pre-emptive enforcement
  • E-Gut reaction, an e-magazine produced by all food authorities in the Dorset area goes to approximately 8,750 registered food businesses across Dorset on a quarterly basis. This includes at least one article from Trading Standards on a food standards matter in each publication.

3.5. Food sampling

Significant emphasis is placed on food sampling and the analysis of food samples as an enforcement tool.

A total of 49 samples were taken in 2018-19 and it is anticipated that a similar number will be taken 2019-20.

There is a commitment to sample a proportion of food from Dorset based businesses. These samples are taken during routine inspection or during specific targeted projects.

An in-house test lab is available where a number of screening tests can be undertaken. This is a useful tool for identifying possible problems on informal samples before the taking of formal ones.

Samples of imported food will be taken at premises where appropriate.

Dorset participates in national and regional sampling programmes delivered through Trading Standards South West.

Sampling will be conducted where appropriate as follows:

As a feature of food premises inspections, with particular emphasis on Dorset based businesses, particularly Dorset based manufacturers.

  • as a response to complaints
  • for identified internal, regional and national projects
  • as a result of intelligence identifying a hazard, for example warnings re allergens in foods

Samples will be taken formally or informally. Formal samples will be taken in accordance with legislation and the procedures set out in the Food Enforcement Code of Practice (England) as appropriate. Examination will be undertaken by appointed Public Analysts.

Appendix 1 (not public) is the Food Sampling Programme for 2019/20.

3.6 Control and investigation of outbreaks and food related infectious disease

Dorset Council Trading Standards has no direct responsibility in relation to outbreaks of food related infectious diseases. It will however liaise and assist, where appropriate, those to whom responsibility is given.

All food specialist staff are authorised by the Minister under the Food and Environment Protection Act to deal with any food related environmental problems.

3.7 Food safety incidents

 Trading Standards will respond in accordance with the Food Enforcement Code of Practice (England) and internal procedures to identify and report food hazards and respond to Food Alerts issued by the Food Standards Agency. Trading Standards is the lead service for Food Alerts in Dorset and will liaise and work with other professionals where necessary.

3.8 Liaison with other organisations

We recognise the value and importance of working in genuine partnerships with others.

Nationally we will continue to contribute to the strategic objectives of the Food Standards Agency, Department for Health and Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) who between them have responsibilities for national food standards and safety.

The service is fully committed to working with the Food Standards Agency on its ‘Regulating Our Future’ programme, to determine a future delivery model for official food controls. The Service Manager was part of the Expert Advisory Group (professionals), which was part of the early consultative process on the programme and continues to represent ACTSO (the Association of Chief Trading Standards Officers) in this work as the lead on Food within the ACTSO Executive group.

Dorset Council Trading Standards is a member of and plays an active part in the activities of Trading Standards South West. This regional partnership is now a Community Interest Company.  Trading Standards South West will be, as the informal partnership that preceded it has been, a vehicle to coordinate food sampling across the region and promote best practice. It provides an opportunity for more efficient sampling programmes, training and education activities. The group aims to ensure consistent enforcement across the different authorities.

The Lead Officer for food attends the regular Food Liaison group meetings with members from all relevant enforcement authorities in the Dorset area and this is also attended by Public Health, analyst laboratories and the FSA.

Our work contributes to the wider health agenda and we continue to participate with public health partners to improve Dorset health outcomes.

Dorset Council Trading Standards adhere to the principles of the Regulators’ Code and a prosecution policy has been established following appropriate consultation and discussion with other trading standards services in the region.

Staff have access to the Primary Authority database and can check for any Primary Authority arrangements in existence before undertaking visits to business.

Dorset Trading Standards uses the Memex system for recording and researching food linked intelligence. Information is also sent to the FSA Food Fraud Unit.

With Trading Standards working within a unitary local authority from April 2019, there will be consideration of how services will be delivered. Appropriate governance and authorisation is in place and the transfer of data relevant for Christchurch (no longer part of Dorset Council) is taking place. Christchurch is now part of the area covered by Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council. 

3.9 Food Standards promotional work and other non–official controls and interventions

Some food sampling campaigns will result in ad-hoc awareness campaigns.

Talks are undertaken to local interested groups and contain information on the work undertaken in food standards. Evaluation is undertaken via a feedback form.

Business satisfaction letters are sent out to business each quarter to help evaluate the work undertaken.

Media requests are dealt with on requests by members of the Trading Standards Management Team. The service has a twitter account that will be used to highlight topical issues regarding food related issues.(@ Dorset_TS)

The Trading Standards section of the website has a comprehensive selection of guidance notes for businesses and consumers. The Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s Business Companion website (for businesses) and the Citizens Advice consumer pages (for consumers) are the original sources for key information.

E-Gut reaction is a quarterly magazine sent to approximately 8750 food businesses in Dorset and Food Standards information is given in each publication.

4. Resources

4.1 Financial allocation

Dorset Council’s Trading Standards Service Manager is responsible for the allocation and delegation of budgets allocated to food enforcement functions. This is done in collaboration with the management team.

The total net budget for the Trading Standards Service for 2019-20 is £897,600. Budgetary resources are used flexibly to meet changing demands on the service.

A total testing and inspection budget of £14,100 is available for 2019-20. Food samples form only a part of this sampling budget. The proportion spent on food is not set and is agreed through the monthly management team. £8,000 is earmarked for food sampling based on previous demands.

No specific allocation for legal costs is given to food work. Where appropriate formal action is taken this will be paid for from a legal costs budget for all Trading Standards cases and prosecution costs will be reclaimed from proceedings where possible.

4.2 Staffing allocation

Dorset Trading Standards aims to give officers the generalist skills, knowledge and experience across a wide range of Trading Standards law to ensure flexibility and allow quick response to emerging threats.

The Food Law Code of Practice (England) 2017 requires that staff undertaking food work are both qualified and competent and that this competency is evidenced and maintained. The service has 10 competent food officers, down from 17 in 2015-16.

We anticipate that food standards work for 2019-20 will continue to amount to 3 full time equivalent staff.

4.3 Staff Development Plan

Training needs will be identified by looking at operational requirements arising from the Service Plan. Individual needs are identified by officers at Performance Development Reviews with line managers and take place yearly, with an interim review after 6 months.

In accordance with the Food Law Code of Practice (England) each authorised food officer must undertake at least 20 hours training per year, at least ten hours of which will be in the core subject of food standards, in order to maintain competency.

Staff are responsible for maintaining their own training records.

Sources of training include, refresher and update training both internal and external, e-learning and self -learning. Training from external sources is evaluated after the event.

5. Quality assessment

5.1 Quality assessment and internal monitoring

Internal monitoring is conducted every quarter by means of a business satisfaction survey to assess the performance of staff and to ensure that we continue to respond to local needs. Dorset businesses also have the opportunity to contact us using information we leave each time we visit.

Monitoring of the performance against the service plan is undertaken monthly at management meetings.

A programme of monitoring, and work-shadowing is undertaken to ensure consistency and adequacy of action by food competent staff, by the Lead Food Officer

Feedback is given by managers to staff at regular 1 to 1 meetings.

6. Review

6.1 Review against the Service Plan

Dorset Trading Standards has adopted the Nation Trading Standards Intelligence Operating Model approach to the prioritisation and allocation of work.

The Food Service Plan is set in the context of Dorset Trading Standards aims and objectives. Performance indicators include, interventions for high risk and upper medium risk premises against target, number of samples taken, response to complaints and service requests, bringing businesses back into compliance following the identification of major non-conformances and business satisfaction targets.

Priorities and resource requirements are reviewed at monthly management meetings for the service. The Food Service Plan is monitored during these meetings and an evaluation of progress and outcomes evaluated.

The end of year review includes an assessment against the previous year’s plan as a means to ensure improvement. Performance against Plans is a key consideration at end of year Personal Development Reviews for individual managers.

6.2 Identification of any variation from the Service Plan

Dorset Trading Standards aims to operate flexibly so that it is able to respond to any emerging threats quickly and appropriately. This may lead to variances from the initial plans. These variances will be documented and where additional work has met food standards objectives this will be recorded including in notes of Management Team meetings. This could include for example an outbreak of a notifiable disease such as foot and mouth disease which may have a major impact on the food plan.

The allocation of suitable resources to tackle any emerging food issues or trends can be raised for consideration by the Trading Standards Management Team at their monthly meeting.

6.3 Areas of improvement

Trading Standards is committed to addressing areas for improvement that may be highlighted following the ongoing assessments highlighted above, including business feedback or external or internal audits.

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