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Evaluating the use of remote assessments by local authorities for regulating food businesses

Regulatory standards Food industry and trade Food safety Monitoring and evaluation Sector regulation United Kingdom

This report presents the findings of a short evaluation carried out by ICF on the use of remote techniques by local authorities to carry out food hygiene and food standards assessments across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The study was tasked with answering seven research questions about local authorities’ use of remote assessments:

  • When, where, and why have remote assessments been used by local authorities?
  • What have been the benefits (including the impact on resources) to local authorities from using remote assessments? What have been the limitations?  
  • What are the barriers and enablers to the implementation of remote assessments from a local authority perspective?
  • What technological capabilities are necessary to facilitate remote assessments? 
  • What are the good / best practices in the conduct of remote assessments? What are the limitations, barriers and perception of regulatory burden?
  • Is there a need for guidance on conduct of remote assessments to ensure a consistent approach to delivery?

Key findings:

The evaluation found that: 

  • remote assessments enabled more structured conversation with food businesses (e.g. using prompts / questionnaires over the phone without onsite distractions)
  • for local authorities, there were benefits in being able to prioritise the most urgent work and postponing less urgent visits, thus reducing time spent in low-risk establishments
  • remote assessments were more appropriate for Food Standards Controls e.g. assessing menus, labelling 
  • local authority officers felt remote assessments were more appropriate in lower risk food businesses as there was a lower public health risk associated with failing to identify food hazards
  • that there was a perceived potential for food businesses to conceal information and falsify/mask problems with their businesses

The FSA is currently considering the findings from the evaluation. These will help inform decisions on any further testing we might want to do or trials we may want to undertake to assess where remote approaches might be used more routinely in the future.

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Open Government Licence v3.0
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