EU proposal to charge food businesses for EHO inspections
EHOs will be expected to charge large and medium sized food businesses for hygiene inspections under plans to ensure official controls are adequately funded throughout the European Union. Proposals, which are subject to a Food Standards Agency (FSA) consultation, could change the way regulators monitor and enforce food safety in member countries.
Currently regulators are able to charge for some industries such as meat handling and fisheries but not for others such as catering. Under the plans EHOs will be expected to levy mandatory charges on all but the smallest of food firms i.e. those employing fewer than 10 people, with annual turnovers of less than £1.6m, will be exempted.
The fees will be set at flat rate, with compliant firms partly refunded, or calculated on case-by-case basis. The EU says fees should cover all costs including staff salaries, travel, tests, facilities and equipment.
There will also be new rules covering the information made available to the general public. Local authorities and the FSA will be expected to regularly publish details of hygiene breaches, penalties and hygiene ratings.
The FSA said the proposed plans will potentially affect all organisations involved in the production, manufacture, supply and regulation of food, feed, live animals, plants and plant reproductive material. At present, the system for funding and charging is mainly left to the discretion of individual EU member states. Under the commissions proposed plans, member states would be expected to recover the full cost of official controls” said a spokesperson.
The proposals need to be approved by the European Parliament and the European Council. Voting is not expected to take place until late 2014.