Food Inspection Regime in Area at Centre of E.coli Inquiry Criticised

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Byline: By MARTIN SHIPTON Western Mail

Some food outlets in the area at the centre of the E.coli investigation had not been inspected since 1996, a new report reveals. It criticises the food law enforcement regime in Bridgend, which is home to John Tudor & Son - the meat supplier at the centre of a police investigation linked to the E.coli outbreak that has struck across South Wales.

Although the Food Standards Agency undertook an audit of Bridgend Council's food law enforcement service in February 2004, it was only published yesterday after concerns raised in the ITV Wales This Week programme two weeks ago.

Until yesterday the FSA had released only five such audits on Welsh councils out of 22.

On Bridgend's food hygiene inspections specifically, the FSA audit states, 'A report produced during the audit revealed that food hygiene inspections of 77 food businesses were overdue, of which 49 were in risk categories B and C.'

On food standards, the audit says, 'A report produced during the audit revealed that food standards inspections of 401 food businesses were overdue, of which 138 had been overdue since before 2000.

'Some businesses had not been inspected for food standards purposes since 1996. Of the overdue inspections, two were of premises that had been categorised as high risk and 279 medium risk. Overdue inspections had not been mentioned in the Food Law Service Plan.'

Plaid Cymru's Shadow Health Minister Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM expressed his concern, saying, 'The FSA reported that, 'The authority was not conducting food standards inspections at the minimum frequency required by Food Safety Act Code of Practice No.8.'

'This reaffirms Plaid Cymru's demand to hold a transparent and thorough inquiry into the recent E.coli outbreak. I shall be asking the National Assembly inquiry committee to include within its terms of reference a provision that will enable the committee to look at the extent local authorities across Wales are failing to meet inspection requirements in order to ensure that improvements are made and lessons learnt.'

A spokesman for Bridgend Council said, 'The council welcomes the release of the Food Standards Agency report on its Food Law Enforcement service conducted in February 2004.

'When the audit was conducted, it was agreed that the report would be subject to the council's Scrutiny process and this is now under way. However, it is important to note that the report relates to enforcement activity prior to February 2004 and does not reflect the current service provision.

'The audit reflected a severe staffing shortage which impacted on the delivery of the service at that time and the council has already addressed many of the issues raised.

'During the period the audit was conducted, the service was also already undergoing a review of operational procedures and staffing issues. The report acknowledges both this and the council's commitment to providing a comprehensive food and feeding stuff law enforcement service. …