Not just down to EHOs' pay

09 March 2006
Not just down to EHOs' pay

The letter from E Nuonno di Agnone "Give EHOs a fair reward" (Caterer, 9 February, page 23) warrants a response.

In the current better regulation climate, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) makes no apology for working in partnership with local authority enforcement. Local authorities were in the forefront of work by the FSA to develop Safer Food Better Business (SFBB), designed to support small caterers in achieving hygiene compliance.

The same commitment can be seen in the response by enforcers to the implementation of SFBB, including through the linked grant scheme. Viewed from any angle, surely this work, and extra resources provided by the FSA, must be a win for enforcement, a win for small businesses, and ultimately a win for consumers.

The issue of EHO shortfalls has been around for a number of years, as many of your readers know, and pre-dates the FSA. To suggest it's down to rates of pay is oversimplistic in the extreme.

Your correspondent also misleads in implying that the 700 vacancies cited all fall into the food enforcement area. There is of course a concern about the shortfall in the number of food safety EHOs in local authorities and the FSA doesn't have all the answers to this.

But we are working with Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) to provide support to EHOs working on food enforcement matters. Together we're also looking at how EHO numbers can be increased through, for example, the student placement schemes for EHOs (and trading standards officers) which the FSA is co-sponsoring.

Your correspondent presented a negative picture. There are problems of course, but the picture I see is of committed and enthusiastic food enforcement professionals out there working to protect consumers and helping small businesses in the process. The FSA will continue to play its part in helping them to do this in the future.

David Statham
Director of Enforcement, Food Standards Agency

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