News Regulating our future

Changes to the Food Business Operator registration process – Coming March 2019

You may have seen some of the updates and news from the FSA in relation to its “Regulating Our Future” programme. This programme is aimed at “modernising how food businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are regulated to check that out food is safe and what it says it is. 

The FSA has revealed its principles for the changes as:

  • Businesses are responsible for producing food that is safe and what it says it is
  • Regulators decisions should be tailored and proportionate
  • All available sources of information should be taken into account
  • Businesses doing the right thing should be recognised and action taken against those that don’t
  • Businesses should meet the costs of regulation

There have been many changes to the global food economy and as a result the ways in which consumers are making choices about what they eat, where they eat and how the food reaches them are ever changing and evolving. The food industry is increasingly diverse, with varying risks in different sectors, from manufacturing, production and retail.  

The FSA has confirmed that it is aiming to roll out its new digital Food Business Operator [“FBO”] registration scheme in March 2019. This will see a transformation to how FBO’s register their businesses. This will be an online service that will collect more data on new businesses registering than ever before. The online registration system applies to new businesses only; there is no requirement for existing businesses to re-register. Therefore existing registrations will still be effective, but any new business takeovers, acquisitions etc, will need to be registered on the new online system. 

The aim is that this new online service will be easier for businesses to use and as it is more user friendly, encourage businesses to register. It will also produce real time information on all registered businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, which will inform risk management decisions. 

Along with the new online registration system, comes the concept of “segmentation”. The FSA claims this will be a “more sophisticated and data driven way for determining risk –segmentation”. This will in fact be an algorithm which will use risk indicators to generate a risk score, separating businesses into categories. The category determination will then determine the nature, frequency and intensity of the level of regulation to the food business. 

There has long been an inconsistency in approaches taken by individual local authorities, and with the implantation of both the online registration and segmentation, it is proposed that a consistent approach will evolve. It is hoped it will reduce regulatory burden on businesses that demonstrate sustained compliance and commitment to food safety, and increased regulatory focus on businesses that need support and refuse to fulfil their obligations. There will be an increased focus on enforcement action when needed. The emphasis here is on businesses providing evidence to the regulator that they are doing the right thing. 

Throughout the remainder of this year and next, the FSA is going to trial “National Inspection Strategies” with six Primary Authority Partnerships, to test how this might work. This is one to watch, providing the testing goes well, this is likely to be rolled out thereafter. 

The FSA is also looking into making the display of ‘Food Hygiene Rating Scheme’ signs mandatory in England. 

There will no doubt be further information and guidance from the FSA prior to March 2019 when these initial changes come into effect.  

Further information can be found here: 

https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/Regulating%20our%20future%20timeline%20infographic.pdf  

https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/media/document/rof-paper-july2017_0.pdf

For further information on this or any other licensing or regulatory issues contact Associate Hannah Price 0115 953 8500 or h.price@popall.co.uk