Food Standards Scotland has opened a comment period on plans to change the way food standards issues are handled with a new enforcement notice.

The comment period on the new food compliance notice closes on Dec. 16. A compliance notice requires the recipient to take steps to ensure they stop committing the offence.

The aim is to help enforcement officers deal quicker and more fairly with intentional or accidental violations of rules on standards such as incorrect or fraudulent product labeling. It is expected that the compliance notices should be available beginning in March 2022.

Local authority food enforcement officers currently have limited powers if there is a suspected food standards regulation breach by a business, other than to submit a report to the Procurator Fiscal, or serve a seizure and detention notice to remove potentially harmful or non-compliant products from the market.

The proposed compliance notice could make better use of officers and the court system’s time and help fix breaches in a shorter timescale which would improve business compliance and consumer safety.

Exploring options
Raymond Pang, Food Standards Scotland senior enforcement manager, said these processes are often time-consuming, unduly damaging to the businesses involved, and are not proportionate to what can often be issues such as an unintentional labeling breach.

“We feel a report should only go to the Procurator Fiscal, in cases of serious breaches, such as fraud or consistent non-compliance of food standards regulations,” he said.

“This proposed notice will highlight the regulation that might have been breached, what a business has to do to comply, and when, before any action is taken. As a result, they will give authorized enforcement officers the option of taking a more graduated, step-by-step approach to enforcement.”

FSS is trying to ensure firms that might be affected by the new notices, are made aware of the potential impacts and cost. The cost to the almost 70,000 registered businesses in the country has been estimated at more than £311,000 ($429,000).

If food compliance officers in each of the 32 local authorities take two hours to familiarize themselves with the new protocols the estimated cost is more than £3,000 ($4,100).

The agency is seeking the views of local authority enforcement officers who inspect businesses and enforce food legislation, companies involved in the manufacturing, packaging and labelling of food products, the catering sector, retailers, and consumers.

A consultation on possibly expanding the scope of compliance notices to include food hygiene will be held at a later date.

(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here)