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Wales Online
Wales Online
Ted Peskett

Food inspectors fear businesses in Wales might switch off fridges to save on energy bills

Food inspectors are concerned that businesses might turn off their fridges in a bid to save money on energy bills. The Shared Regulatory Service (SRS), which provides regulatory services for Cardiff Council, Vale of Glamorgan Council and Bridgend County Borough Council, raised their fears at a meeting on Tuesday, September 27.

With the cost of living crisis putting households and businesses across the country under huge financial pressure, the SRS said they are receiving intelligence that turning off fridges will be a way that some establishments might look to save money. Speaking at the meeting on Tuesday, operational manager for commercial services at the SRS, Christina Hill, said the prospect is a "real worry" and that the consequences could pose a "serious risk to the consumer".

She said: "We are very much heightened at the moment on what we could face... officers need to be very aware. We are anticipating a rise in enforcement." Figures revealed at the meeting also showed that the SRS was a long way off its targets for carrying out food inspections at a number of businesses for the first few months of 2022.

Read more: ' Unpaid carers 'terrified about winter' after waiting months for council answer on vital funds'

Only 28 inspections were carried out at businesses that require a visit every 18 months in Cardiff during the first quarter of 2022-23. The number of inspections due was 1,357. In Vale of Glamorgan, only 2.15% of the inspections earmarked for businesses that require a visit every 18 months were carried out during the first quarter of 2022-23.

The SRS categorises high-risk businesses that need an inspection from A to C - with A being the most at-risk businesses, requiring a visit every six months. Category B businesses require a visit every year and category C businesses require a visit every 18 months.

The lack of inspections carried out early on in the year has been put down to the SRS prioritising visits to category A and B businesses in order to address the backlog of inspections caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the shortfall in staff as well, the SRS said they are confident that the work they are doing remains at a "really high standard". Ms Hill said: "It is not a case of the staff not performing. We are on an uphill struggle before we start."

A spokesman for the SRS said: “Recognising the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on local authorities’ capacity to recover lost ground on their traditional inspection programmes for food premises, the Food Standards Agency has implemented a four nations approach through the FSA Covid-19 Local Authority Recovery Plan. The purpose of the recovery plan is to ensure that during the period of recovery from the impact of the pandemic, local authority resources are targeted where they add greatest value in providing safeguards for public health and consumer protection in relation to food. It also aims to safeguard the integrity of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS).

"The recovery plan provides a route map for re-starting the delivery system in line with the Food Law Codes of Practice for both new food establishments and for high-risk and/or non-compliant establishments while providing flexibility for the inspection of lower risk establishments. The plan sets out a number of date milestones for regulatory services across Wales (and the other three nations) to meet. Shared Regulatory Services has achieved each of the FSA Recovery Plan milestones to date and is due to report on the ‘end of September 2022’ milestone shortly.

"This was made clear during the course of the joint committee meeting on Tuesday, September 27, and it was in this context that the wider food inspection performance was reported.”


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