Thousands of food suppliers ‘failing standards tests’

Food labelling and food hygiene are separate but equally contentious issues - and arguments continue about whether the system for either category is fit for purpose.
Food labelling and food hygiene are separate but equally contentious issues - and arguments continue about whether the system for either category is fit for purpose.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats say they’ve found that food suppliers across Scotland have failed more than 9,000 tests since 2013, including hundreds of cases of food being mislabelled.

Figures from 24 of Scotland’s 32 local councils uncovered through freedom of information legislation are said to show that 9,148 food standards tests have been failed since 2013.

One council highlighted the case of a meal listed as containing local ingredients which was found to contain chicken from the Netherlands.

The Liberal Democrats say recent tragedies which involved people with allergies consuming mislabelled food underline the need for improvement.

Mike Rumbles MSP said: “These food sampling figures are an insight into the services - big and small - which local authorities provide across Scotland.

“They are doing excellent work to make sure that the public are kept safe and informed amid a workload that is as large as ever.

“Yet under Nicola Sturgeon the amount of money given to them by central government has fallen by 8 per cent.

“When people settle down for a meal or pick up some food on the go, they want to know that what they are eating is safe and what it purports to be.

“Government particularly needs to look at companies’ responsibilities in relation to food labelling in light of recent tragic cases.

“Given the seriousness of some people’s allergies, this can’t be taken too seriously and there is a strong case for more robust regulation”.

However while when it comes to the separate but also crucial area of hygiene some comparisons can be flawed, according to Falkirk Council - which last year did not accept the accuracy of figures in a Which? report that labelled Falkirk as the alleged sixth worst UK council area for food hygiene.

The council pointed out that Food Standards Scotland does not rank Scottish local authorities, as it recognises that designing food hygiene comparison methods can be misleading.

Its spokesperson said: “The pass rate for Falkirk Council food premises is 95 per cent in April 2018.

“Food Standards Scotland is in the process of developing a new database to collect all Scottish local authority food enforcement activities in real time which will provide a more accurate profile of the official food controls being carried out across Scotland.”

The council also stated the reference performance measure used in the Which? report is “compliance”, which is the responsibility of the Food Business Operator.

Falkirk Council is only responsible for the number of premises which have opened but not yet been visited and rated for risk and, the number of interventions – prevention or elimination of food safety risks – completed.

Its spokesperson said: “For both of these responsibilities Falkirk Council is better than the Scottish average.”