I feel less than sunny at the news of the launch this week in Scotland of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) ’scores on the doors’ pilots.
The FSA’s plan is to give consumers information at the point of purchase about shops’ hygiene standards, based on their last food inspection report. This information will be conveyed by certificates displayed inside the shop stating ’pass’ or ’improvement required’. Involvement in the scheme is voluntary and there will be pilots across the UK.
In my opinion, the FSA’s consultation on this has been disappointingly patchy. Bakers’ shops are often in the high street and are high profile and easy to target. Because of this they will probably receive a lot of attention from these schemes. Will side street stall operators, late night carry-out shops and markets, all of which I suggest are real problem areas, receive a similar level of attention?
There are issues here of consistency and fairness. Do local authorities have the resources to adequately run and police the schemes? What will the notices mean to the public? Where is the incentive, if you are given an ’improvement required’ notice, to put up a certificate and alert your customers to the fact?
To me the concept looks like an exercise in regulatory creep going way beyond the intentions of legislators. We must all watch this space - it is for each baker to decide whether or not to be part of these schemes.