Environmental Health professionals in Wirral and across the country have expressed concerns over a growing number of home food businesses that have started up during the latest COVID-19 lockdown.
Often selling through social media and other informal networks and apps, it is believed some are not registered as food businesses, meaning local authorities have not been able to check hygiene and food standards.
Figures from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and data from an online registration system used by nearly 200 local authorities, show that around 44% of food businesses started since the first lockdown are home-based.
Uninspected food businesses operating without the necessary checks and balances can be a real risk to public health and cause complications for local authorities at a time of national crisis.
It is for that reason, that the council is asking for any of these businesses that have recently set up in Wirral to ensure they register and open up their premises for food hygiene inspections. They can register their business here – https://register.food.gov.uk/new/wirral or access more information from here https://www.food.gov.uk/business-guidance/starting-a-food-business-from-home.
If members of the public want to check if a business has been inspected and what their rating is, they can do so here – https://ratings.food.gov.uk/
Cllr Andrew Hodson, Chair of the Regulatory and General Purposes Committee on Wirral Council, said: “While it should be stressed we have had no reported cases as yet of unregistered businesses causing issues in Wirral, we have heard anecdotally and seen a number of businesses advertising food services from home on social media.
“Our responsibility to public health doesn’t just extend to dealing with the pandemic and other issues that can make people ill, we also have to ensure that those providing food are doing so to the highest safety standards.”
Julie Barratt, the President of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, added: “We don’t want to discourage businesses starting up, we want to work with them to get it right first time. The best way for that to happen is if new businesses register with their local authorities and talk to their environmental health teams before opening. That way they can open with confidence and peace of mind that they are supporting their local communities, not harming them.”
Photo by Flora Westbrook