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The identification, analysis and potential remedy of the problems experienced by SMEs in complying with food law requirements.
Project Code: E03002
Pershore Group of Colleges
Mutukumira, T ; Capper, J
The Food Standards Agency has identified a series of difficulties that small food and drink businesses experience. These include keeping up to date and complying with the legal requirements that govern the UK’s food establishments.
The project involved two phases of work. The first, a quantitative survey set out to identify and understand the scale and scope of the difficulties experienced by businesses, with regard to food law requirements.
Using the results and information gained from the quantitative survey, qualitative pilot studies were developed. The qualitative studies were to test the effectiveness of five different mechanisms of support for SMEs in order to help them comply with requirements for food labelling and HACCP/hazard analysis. The methods employed were traditional training courses, use of a telephone help-line, mail-shot information, access to an interactive website and advisory visits undertaken by enforcement officers.
The pilot studies were run on a small-scale to provide an indication of the key issues involved. The findings were supplemented with information from others operating in the field.
Within this study, 39% of businesses surveyed indicated that they may not be fully compliant. 80% of new enterprises under one year old felt that they did not fully meet all the requirements of food law. The main areas of poor compliance identified were food labelling and implementation, and operation of food safety management systems. The results also indicated that there was a real willingness for companies to implement the necessary changes and developments within their business, providing that they were given the necessary assistance.
The study also identified that many of the EHOs and TSOs surveyed felt that they would benefit from a better understanding of the industry they were inspecting. As discussed, this may cause some difficulties with respect to any advisory role undertaken by the officers concerned. It could be argued that it would be virtually impossible for an individual enforcement officer to be an expert in all matters pertaining to the industry. Furthermore, results from the pilot studies identified that enforcement agencies have a very valuable role in providing advice, assistance and support to small food businesses.
Another main finding was that support provided to food companies on a one-to-one basis, either by an enforcement officer or independent advisor, seems to be key in assisting small food enterprises. Especially in undertaking changes and developments in their business, including that required for food law compliance. The potential resource and cost implications of this are recognised.
Overall, implementation and operation of the pilot studies identified a number of advantages and disadvantages of each of the five methods of assistance tested. It also highlighted the challenges involved with respect to assisting businesses comply with food law. In terms of meeting this challenge - as supported by the results of the pilot studies - it is argued that a strategy should be developed that directly and visibly links compliance with food law to that of business profitability. In this way, the work needed for compliance will be inextricably linked with that needed to make money and will thus become more of a priority for day-to-day work in the businesses concerned.
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