Hygiene warnings to over 150 businesses in South Tyneside

Restaurants, takeaways and pubs in South Tyneside were slapped with written warnings on food hygiene issues more than 150 times last year, new figures reveal.
Over 150 businesses in South Tyneside were subject to food hygiene action last yearOver 150 businesses in South Tyneside were subject to food hygiene action last year
Over 150 businesses in South Tyneside were subject to food hygiene action last year

Food Standards Agency (FSA) data shows that 156 informal written warnings were handed out to food businesses in the borough during 2019-20.

The figures show that FSA inspectors took formal enforcement action against traders on six occasions – and that this resulted in the voluntary closures of two businesses and hygiene improvement notices being served on four others.

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Restaurants, pubs and caterers make up the majority of businesses inspected, but any establishment which handles unpacked food including manufacturers can be subject to a visit.

If a business is not meeting requirements the agency can take a range of actions, from informal steps such as advice and guidance or a written warning, to closure or even prosecution in the most serious cases.

Any potential breach of food hygiene regulations can prompt an informal warning, including problems with cleanliness, record keeping and separation of cooked and raw foods.

Te figures show that, nationally, 151,300 written warnings were handed out last year – with 4,800 formal enforcement actions undertaken.

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While the latest figures only cover a small period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FSA said the crisis created "unprecedented challenges for local authorities in delivering their statutory food functions”.

At one point during the first national lockdown period, councils were advised to postpone some planned inspections.

Maria Jennings, director of regulatory compliance at the FSA, said: “Whilst the latest figures are not dissimilar to those from in 2018-19, we acknowledge that Covid-19 has clearly created significant pressures on local authorities since the end of March.

"We’ll be considering the impact the pandemic has had on their resources and on delivering their statutory responsibilities in relation to food at the FSA Board’s business committee meeting.

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A planned radical overhaul of the way food businesses are regulated has also been affected by the pandemic, the agency said.

A pilot study to help establish new policies and standards was due to begin this year, but this has been postponed until 2021.