The Caterer
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Give EHOs a fair reward

09 February 2006

Your excellent rendition of problems caused by online reports on hygiene shortcomings - and the impossibility, for establishments, to have their response published immediately - underlines two issues (Caterer, 2 February, page 4).

The Food Standards Agency decision to invest millions of pounds in "educating the micro caterers" smells of double standards: micro caterers would become largely self-controlling in matters of hygiene but EHOs would have more time to inspect bigger establishments more frequently.

However, as Caterer revealed last November (Caterer, 10 November, page 10), the shortage of EHOs (700-odd vacancies nationwide) is a serious problem, forcing authorities to slash numbers of random checks and therefore weakening controls and consumer confidence.

Has anybody at the FSA wondered why there are so many vacancies? The answer is money, or lack of it. EHOs are poorly paid: senior and even principal EHOs can count themselves lucky if they earn £30,000 a year, a princely sum available after years of studying tough subjects and shadowing others.

It's no wonder that this earnings pattern discourages many to start in the first place, and encourages many others to leave the local authorities and join private food-related enterprises which can pay appropriately.

Part of the many millions spent by the FSA should have gone to boost salaries - a just reward for professionals who endure extreme conditions.

E Nuonno di Agnone
Principal, ENDA Consultants, Twickenham

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