National Standard for Food Hygiene Comes in to Force

The first country-wide assured catering hygiene advice and protection takes effect in England from 1st October 2017 as new Primary Authority legislation comes into force.

Primary Authority enables businesses to form a statutory partnership with one local authority, which then provides robust and reliable advice for other local regulators to follow when carrying out inspections or addressing non-compliance. The aim is to ensure that local regulation is consistent at a national level and sufficiently flexible to address local circumstances.

Thanks to a partnership between the British Hospitality Association (BHA) and Cornwall Council, which is Primary Authority for the catering sector, a new scheme means that BHA member businesses who opt-in and are following the Catering Guide – the definitive guide for the hospitality industry – can be assured that they will be held to one consistent hygiene standard. The guide is recognised by the Food Standards Agency and is included in all BHA membership packages from the 1 October.

Inspection regimes and official advice varies between England’s 326 local authorities which can lead to businesses facing reputational risk from a poor food hygiene rating. Such a drop of rating can cause trade to fall by 20 to 50%. For many businesses, the costs of reputational damage, loss of trade and payment for a re-inspection can run into thousands of pounds.

Examples of contradictory advice given by Environmental Health Officers (EHO) and reasons businesses have been marked down include:

- That purple chopping boards must be used when preparing allergenic foods
- That food must be cooled to below 8ºC in 90 minutes
- That food handlers must legally receive 6 hours of level 2 hygiene training

None of this advice is correct in all circumstances and businesses following the BHA’s Catering Guide will be able to rely on the agreed levels required for compliance in the guide and the support of Cornwall Council if challenged by an EHO.

To access this assured advice and the added protection of Primary Authority, hospitality businesses need to opt-in via the BHA website (bit.ly/BHAPrimaryAuthoritySignUp) if they are already a BHA member, or join the BHA today and receive a complimentary Catering Guide. Even if hospitality businesses already have their own Primary Authority, they can still opt in to the BHA scheme if they are a member, and take advantage of BHA assured advice as well.

Speaking about the new scheme, Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the BHA said:

"These changes to Primary Authority will benefit hospitality and catering businesses who are currently subject to environmental health regimes which can vary between each of the 326 enforcement authorities in England. Businesses will now be able to opt-in easily to a scheme providing them with assured advice, coordinated by their relevant trade body, for catering for example, the British Hospitality Association in partnership with Cornwall Council as the Primary Authority.

"The BHA’s Catering Guide is the definitive guide for hospitality industry, assured by Cornwall Council. If a member follows this advice, they have the assurance that other local authorities must take this into account in their dealings with the business. This will promote consistency and fairness of enforcement, reducing burdens on businesses."

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