Blackburn with Darwen: Five firms shut after food hygiene visits
A BOROUGH saw more than 400 warnings issued to food premises in 2019/2020 over hygiene leading to five closures. The notices in Blackburn with Darwen followed visits from the Food Standards Agency and council inspectors. The FSA carries out planned visits to businesses to ensure they are complying with food safety and hygiene laws.
If a business is not meeting requirements the agency and councils can take actions from ranging from advice, guidance or a written warning through to closure or prosecution. Any potential breach of food hygiene regulations can prompt a warning – including problems with cleanliness, record keeping and separation of cooked and raw foods. FSA data shows that 445 written warnings were handed out to food businesses across Blackburn with Darwen in 2019-20.
And inspectors took formal enforcement action against traders on five occasions. This resulted in four voluntary closures and the issue of one hygiene improvement notice on February 24 to a food truck on Victoria Street car park in Blackburn. The business has since shut down.
The council would not reveal the four businesses which voluntarily closed as they shut down after making private agreements with the council and no formal public notices were issued. Restaurants and caterers make up the majority of businesses inspected but any establishment which handles unpacked food including farms and manufacturers can be subject to a visit. Blackburn with Darwen Council Environment boss Cllr Jim Smith said: “These figures show that we take food hygiene very seriously.
“We want people to know they are safe when they eat out. If the council receives a complaint we always follow it up. “Coronavirus has slowed the inspection process as officers deal with pandemic issues, but we have not taken our eye off the ball.
“We have a range of measures from informal warnings to closing the business and prosecution. Obviously we would rather not close businesses and want them to improve so we talk to them first.” In total, 151,300 written warnings were handed out across England, Wales and Northern Ireland last year, and 4,800 formal enforcement actions taken.
While the figures only cover a period of the Covid-19 pandemic, the FSA said the crisis created ‘unprecedented challenges for local authorities in delivering their statutory food functions’, with councils advised to postpone some planned inspections in the first national lockdown.
Maria Jennings, director of compliance at the FSA, said: “Whilst the latest figures are not dissimilar to those from in 2018-19, we acknowledge that Covid-19 has clearly created significant pressures on local authorities since the end of March.”