Lesley Griffiths, Minister for Health and Social Services
Members will be aware I launched a consultation on proposals for a Food Hygiene Rating (Wales) Bill on 14 December, 2011.
The consultation gained a considerable amount of interest amongst Food Authorities, businesses and consumers with a total of 58 responses to the online consultation exercise, a further 5 responses by letter and 176 responses as a result of a Consumer Focus Wales engagement exercise.
Many respondents have given serious thought to the proposed legislation and made constructive comments and I am grateful for their input.
The key objectives of the Bill are to introduce a statutory requirement for Food Authorities to rate food businesses and then for operators to display food hygiene rating information. The proposed Bill will:
- Create a compulsory food hygiene rating scheme (FHRS) for food businesses in Wales. The Welsh Government considers the FHRS should be broadly based on the current Food Standards Agency (FSA) Scheme because it has been widely adopted and is working well;
- place a duty on food authorities to operate the FHRS. Broadly speaking, this means to carry out all of the activities which they currently undertake voluntarily in relation to the FSA Scheme;
- place a duty on operators to display their food hygiene ratings in a prescribed position at their establishment whilst giving them a right of appeal and a right of reply in the same way as that provided by the FSA Scheme; and
- make it an offence for operators to fail to display their food hygiene ratings in the location and manner prescribed by regulations.
My officials have now completed a summary report of the responses and these will be placed on the Welsh Government website.
Two key themes which emerged from the responses were consistency and transparency and the report highlights the matters where the themes occurred. Whilst we received a wide range of responses there were some clear overall messages:
- The majority of respondents were very supportive of the proposed requirement for a food business to display its food hygiene rating at their premises.
- Several respondents wanted further consideration and clarification on how the scheme would operate for food business establishments registered outside of Wales but trading on a transient basis in Wales.
- The possible exemption of low risk food businesses beyond those already exempt under the FSA’s voluntary FHRS.
- The majority of responses favoured charging for re-rating inspections requested by a food business and this should include all sectors providing food to the public.
- Respondents supported the use of assessments of food hygiene standards of an establishment carried out prior to the commencement of this Act being used as the basis for a rating under the mandatory scheme.
- The inclusion of business to business trade in the scope of the scheme was supported. There were some opposing voices to this view.
- 60% of respondents did not feel summary inspection reports should be routinely published and did not feel they would make use of the additional information to decide where to eat or purchase food. Consumer Focus Wales support the publication of such reports and 176 respondents submitted a Consumer Focus postcard supporting access to additional information.
- Many respondents felt it unnecessary for the food hygiene rating certificate to be displayed or retained.
- The Welsh Food Hygiene Rating Scheme should mirror as closely as possible the National Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. Consequently respondents would like to see the proposed rating criteria changed to reflect this.
I have instructed officials to continue to work on the draft Bill, taking into account the matters raised during the consultation. The Bill is due to be introduced to the Assembly in May.