When I first became law enforcement officer in 1984, there was frankly little guidance on the application of law to food businesses. We relied heavily on case law, and there wasn’t much of that. This was as good as it got and much was down to the professional judgment of the EHO. At a time of paper-based systems, no Twitter, LinkedIn, no internet access, no primary authority, there was little sharing of information other than attending conferences and local EHO meetings. It's hard to believe that we didn't even have a mobile phone - in fact I shared an extension with a colleague.
With new legislation came the first Industry Guide in 1995, a godsend for both industry and enforcement officers, as at last there was agreed common ground and finally a level playing field on the interpretation of the law. And whilst the law kept changing, with finally the incorporation of EC 852/2004 in to national legislation, the substance of food safety requirements remained much the same, and the old Industry Guide continued to be used as a practical interpretation of standards, clarifying areas of difficulty.
However, a new Guide was needed to refresh the old one, and to further clarify the new law and new developments in technology and food safety. Following many months, if not years of work, the British Hospitality Association grasped the nettle and developed an updated, modern guide.
The publication has been developed through a collaborative approach with close liaison between the BHA Food Experts Working group (which included a number of EHPs) and the Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland. Finally, following a 12 week consultation period and further subsequent revisions, the Guide has been published in hard copy, with access to an non-line version and an exciting development – the first Industry Guide app.
An important observation is that this is not just a guide: it is the catering industry standard and I anticipate that its use will be instrumental to help not only with consistency of enforcement by traditional means but also within forthcoming era of earned recognition.
Following the referendum the question on many people’s lips will be whether the guide is already out of date because of Brexit? I think not – first, the law won't change overnight – it may take quite a few years, and furthermore the old guide had a use-by date well past legislative changes. Regardless of whether much of the law will change, the longevity of this guide as a practical no-nonsense source of information and guidance for businesses and enforcement officers is likely to be assured for many years.
The guide is available here: http://bit.ly/CateringGuide