Last updated on 5 July 2012
Evidence gathering for the review of the delivery of official controls
The review of the delivery of official controls will aim to make use of the best available evidence in order to reach reliable conclusions. The Food Standards Agency already collects data from local authorities and port health authorities for a variety of reasons. However, to conduct the review it has been necessary to develop a programme of work to gather additional data.
The review will be conducted using evidence gathered through externally commissioned research and in-house Agency expertise, in addition to using existing data and analysis. This will allow us to identify areas for improvement in the current system, identify options for change, and allow for an evidence-based assessment of the impact of any proposed changes. The following section provides an overview of the different areas of research being undertaken.
Comparison with others
To review the current UK delivery model, we will consider what can be learned from others. This will involve looking at the structures other countries use to deliver official controls for food. This will allow us to consider and compare a range of different delivery models.
This piece of externally commissioned work will:
- collect information on delivery mechanisms, including what degree of local/national decision making there is, the key features, the strengths and weaknesses compared to the UK model and the lessons learned
- review evidence to assess what impact different delivery models have in terms of their effectiveness in achieving favourable outcomes, e.g. driving up business compliance, reducing risks for consumers
This information could be drawn on to explore viable fixes and alternative models for improving official controls delivery and provide information to allow us to assess the costs and benefits of any changes.
The UK food industry
The aim of this project will be to produce an overview of the food industry and food supply chain in the UK (such as the scale of the industry and the different sectors) and the opportunities, issues and challenges for delivering effective official controls throughout the food chain at a local and national level.
An initial assessment is being conducted in-house by the FSA. Analysts are looking at existing evidence with a view to producing an overview of the UK food industry and food supply chain from this perspective. It will also incorporate information from market reports for sectors of the food chain where the Agency currently has limited data.
Further work may be required to build on this initial assessment.
Overview of current delivery by local authorities and port health authorities
This project will collect up-to-date, consistent data from authorities to supplement what is currently held by the FSA, such as information available from the Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System (LAEMS.)
The aim of this project is to provide as complete a picture as possible of current delivery of food safety and standards official controls in the UK delivery model. This includes how it is structured, the resources available, the areas of other responsibility and variations in practice, and how the system is adapting to cuts in budget and changes in remit.
This is expected to include:
- mapping official control structures across local authority and port health authority food and feed teams in the UK
- a review of service delivery plans and collation of the information within these
- a survey of local authorities and port health authorities to gather information to supplement existing data sources and fill data gaps, then analysing the results of this
The work will aim to reflect the variations in approaches to official controls delivery between the devolved administrations of the UK and the variations in approach between local and port health authorities within the same country to provide representative feedback.
An in-depth study of delivery of official controls in the UK
The project will collect more detailed information from a smaller number of local authorities and port health authorities to develop a range of illustrative examples of how official controls delivery works in practice.
This information will be drawn together with other available information to help identify examples of best practice to improve effectiveness and efficiency. It will identify risks and areas for improvement and aid understanding of the impact of changes that are happening at the local level.
Authorities will be selected to try and ensure that we capture authorities that represent the variability structure and organisation across in the UK.
Examples of the sort of information the exercise will seek to capture, describe and quantify, include:
- what an enforcement officer does, and to understand the range of work that an officer has to deal with and how their time is split between these
- how official control processes work in practice and the volumes, timings and costs of these as far as possible
- how food safety interfaces with other areas of authorities work, advice to consumers, interactions with laboratories, health and safety
- how front-line official controls delivery is supported by other functions in the local authorities and port health authorities (e.g. HR, administration) and the costs and benefits of these
- explore how authorities are responding to changes in funding and ways of working in the face of wider political and economic change
Assessing the role of the FSA as the central competent authority in a delegated delivery system
As a UK central competent authority (CCA) the FSA directs and supports the delivery of official controls by local authorities and port health authorities. It will not be possible to fully assess the strengths and weaknesses of the current delegated delivery system without assessing the core role of the Agency within it.
The aim of this work will be to assess the structures and processes that the FSA has in place to develop official controls strategy and policy and how these are translated into delivery. It will establish how the FSA supports, monitors and drives the effectiveness, efficiency and consistency of the delivery of official controls and investigate the sustainability and resilience of the system.
To undertake the assessment, it will be necessary to map the powers, structures, processes and resources the Agency, as the CCA, has in place to work with, support, direct and assess competent authorities in the delivery of official controls. We will then assess how effectively these contribute to effective and efficient delivery of official controls. The data will be gathered from existing evidence within the Agency, supplemented with additional information gathered from both internal and external stakeholders. An independent expert panel will be established to provide direction, challenge and oversight to the work.
Horizon scanning – future scenarios
Horizon scanning and futures work is integral to the review to help identify developments, trends and changes in the medium to long term that could have an impact on the food chain in the UK and consequently affect the delivery of official controls.
The research will identify a number of potential changes the food system in the UK may be subject to in the future, taking account of all relevant sectors and stakeholders who could potentially be affected. Developing possible future scenarios from these will inform the work to assess the current model, and develop improvements or alternative models by testing their resilience and sustainability for the future.
This work is being conducted as part of a joint initiative that the FSA participates in with a range of other government departments and funders to fund the Collaborative Centre of Excellence for Natural and Environmental Risks and Futures (CERF) at Cranfield University. The CERF partnership has agreed to undertake a future scenarios analysis for the FSA. Use of the CERF contract offers an opportunity to draw on external expertise early in the review to support the team in defining research needs in this area and identify synergies with others.
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