Food environment improvement
Food consumption, how we consume it and how
much we consume is recognised as a key public health
The foods which people consume as part of
their daily diets has a direct impact on the health of the
individual and / or population. Poor food handling practices
can lead to food poisoning, with poor diet choices possibly leading
to increased risks of nutritional lifestyle issues such as obesity,
heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.
It is therefore paramount to ensure that all
consumers have food which is wholesome, healthy and nutritious.
This can be achieved through the adherence of strict food
legal frameworks and guidelines which all food producers, caterers
and retailing businesses have a duty to comply with. It is
similarly vital that the public has the knowledge of what their
food contains, how it should be prepared and the effects food has
upon their overall health.
The Regulatory Services team, through
interventions via environmental health and trading standards,
significantly contributes to this agenda by ensuring that all food
businesses meet stringent food hygiene and safety legal
requirements. The team also endeavours to work with consumers
and other agencies to promote safe preparation of food and healthy
What do we know?
1) The Regulatory Services team regularly
inspects approximately 1500 food premises within the Borough of
Bedford, with over three quarters (80%) being classified as
restaurants and other caterers. Food retailers make up the
second most significant group, with producers, distributors,
importers and manufacturers accounting for the remaining premises.
The team’s food service plan can be viewed at http://www.bedford.gov.uk/environment_and_planning/env_health__trading_standards/food_safety__standards.aspx
2) 94% of food businesses in Bedford are
defined as meeting minimum food safety standards under the food
hygiene rating scheme (defined as broadly compliant or above). This
compares to the national average of 91%, however 6% of food
businesses in Bedford still fall below the acceptable standard (an
FHRS score below 3) as defined in the Food Hygiene Rating
Scheme (FHRS) Brand Standard.
3) Between April 2010 and March 2015 Bedford
Borough Council received and investigated 298 confirmed food borne
notifications. It is estimated that this is only a fraction
of overall levels of food poisoning as these figures are often
unreported (Food Standards Agency, 2011).
4) An estimated 21.2% of adults in Bedford
were classed as obese in 2012 (PHE 2015). Nationally,
the cost to the NHS for treating obesity related conditions exceeds
£5 billion a year. If levels of obesity continue to rise at their
present rate, it is estimated this cost will double to £10 billion
per year by 2050 (Faculty of Public Health, 2013).
5) Premature deaths (before a person reaches
an expected age, e.g. 75 years) from heart disease and stroke from
2011-2013 was 73.1 per 100,000, compared to the national average of
78.2 per 100,000 (PHE 2015).
1) Estimates suggest there are around one
million cases of food borne illness in the UK each year, resulting
in 20,000 hospital admissions and 500 deaths (DEFRA, 2013)
2) Campylobacter is the most common pathogen
associated with food poisoning. Listeria Monocytogenes accounts for
the greatest proportion of deaths at 33% of cases (DEFRA, 2013)
3) In an FSA research report on food attitudes
and behaviours in the home, it was found that men and older
respondents (particularly 75 and older) were more likely not to
follow good food hygiene practices (FSA 2013).
4) Just over a quarter of adults (26% of both
men and women aged 16 or over) were classified as obese in 2010
5) People are eating outside the home more
than ever. On average one in every six meals in the UK is
consumed outside the home. With 75% of people having eaten
out in the previous seven days at the time of research (FSA
6) In 2011 eating out contributed to 10% of
energy intake (excluding alcohol). Food consumed outside of
the home can represent up to 20-25% of calories eaten. The
‘eating out’ diet is higher in fat and protein (DEFRA, 2012).
7) Age is the major factor with regards to
those who eat out the most, with younger people being more likely
to eat out (90% of 16-34 year olds eat out each week). For
other age groups the proportion eating out declines steadily,
decreasing to 49% of those aged 75 and over (FSA 2013).
8) Childhood obesity in the UK is amongst the
highest in the World. Extrapolating data from the National
Child Measurement programme (NCMP) data 2011/2013 (HSCIC, 2013),
there are approximately 12,330 overweight and obese children In
Bedford Borough between the ages of 0 and 19.
Current activity and services
Food Hygiene / Standards and
1) Bedford Borough Council, through its
Regulatory Services team has the core responsibility to ensure that
all food businesses comply and meet the necessary national food
safety and food standards legislation. It does this through a
range of interventions including routine inspection and audit
2) The Regulatory Services team operate the
Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS). This scheme helps the
public choose where to eat or shop for food by giving information
about their hygiene standards. The scheme also encourages
businesses to raise their hygiene standards to obtain high scores
so they will have competitive advantage over other traders.
Generally food businesses which are rated 3 are considered to
be broadly compliant with food safety legislation and therefore
classified as satisfactory. Ratings of 4 and 5 demonstrate
that the businesses are good and very good respectively at meeting
food safety standards. To date approximately 1100 businesses
have a food hygiene rating score and a further 500 food businesses
will receive a score over the next 12-18 months.
3) The Regulatory Services team investigates
all food poisoning notifications and outbreaks with an aim to
identify the source, control and prevent further cases developing
from the source and prevent spread from primary cases.
4) The Regulatory Services team investigates
all complaints relating to food safety, including poor hygiene,
foreign objects in food (e.g. metal, glass, and insects), unfit
food, food alleged to have caused food poisoning and food
standards complaints (e.g. labelling, descriptions, claims).
5) The Regulatory Services team carries out a
risk based sampling programme and samples foodstuffs for
microbiological examination, labelling information, nutritional
claims and pictorial representations.
6) The Regulatory Services team maintains the
database of food premises in the Borough and takes steps to ensure
that the information is accurate and up to date.
7) The Regulatory Services team regularly
inspects feed premises e.g. farms, to check compliance with
compositional, labelling and feed hygiene requirements.
The Regulatory Services team, through the
environmental health and trading standards team, implement several
joint food related initiatives with other public health partners,
although some of these are in various stages of development.
1) A breast feeding project between the food
safety team and local health providers has been established and is
currently being progressed successfully by promoting breast
feeding-friendly food establishments, thus helping to increase the
rates of breastfeeding mothers. Environmental Health Officers
as part of their normal food safety inspections promote, assess and
offer businesses the award which encourages breastfeeding-friendly
establishments. This scheme is also attractive to businesses
as it encourages new custom from new mothers. To date there
are 25 establishments who have the award in Bedford.
2) The Regulatory Services team participates
in Bedford Borough Council’s Excess Weight Partnership Strategy
development process. The team contributes to the objectives on
Priority 1 which includes a strategy to create environments that
promote healthier lifestyles.
3) The Regulatory Services team contributes to
the national Food Safety Week initiative which is held every year
in June/July and promotes good hygiene practices in the home, thus
helping to reduce food poisoning levels.
National & Local
1) The Regulatory Services team prepare a
detailed annual Food & Feed Service Plan which is approved and
ratified by the Executive and Full Council. This plan sets
out the departmental aims for the following year which include:
a) Ensuring all food
/ feed establishments comply with food and feed legal requirements
in terms of hygiene and standards through various intervention
methods including inspection and sampling.
b) Ensuring that all
outbreaks of infectious disease are investigated in line with
Public Health England guidelines.
awareness of good food safety practices through a programme of food
hygiene training and health education and advice initiatives.
Other local documents include:
The Bedford Health Profile 2015 (PHOF, 2015) which has
identified obesity as a priority in Bedford, both adults and
Borough Health and Wellbeing Strategy, 2014-2017
4) Bedford Borough Excess Weight
5) Bedford Borough Council Corporate Plan
1) The Food Standards Agency (FSA) Food Borne
Diseases Strategy 2010 – 2015 identifies key aims to reduce
food borne illness in coordination with various stakeholders
including local authorities. The FSA reiterates the efforts
needed by environmental and trading standards teams in:
a) Raising public
awareness of good food handling practices
b) Improved data
sharing between agencies
publicity of the food hygiene rating scheme
d) Increased support
for businesses in achieving food hygiene compliance
e) Introduction of
pathogen specific programmes to help reduce levels of
Campylobacter, Listeria and E coli 0157.
2) Healthy Lives Healthy people - Our Strategy
for Public Health in England (Department of Health, 2010) and the
subsequent document, Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A call to
action on obesity in England (Department of Health, 2011) clearly
identifies access to safe and wholesome food as one of the main
factors to improving health and health inequalities. The
report identifies that the leading causes of death across all ages
are circulatory diseases, cancers which can all be associated with
poor food diet. The strategies confirm that efforts need to
be taken to reduce salt, increase the uptake of five a day
portions, provide better information for consumers about food, and
ensure more healthier choices are available.
This same document refers to participation of
the ‘Responsibility Deal’ programme. The Public Health
Responsibility Deal aims to tap into the potential for businesses
and other influential organisations to make a significant
contribution to improving public health e.g. food businesses
offering healthy food choices and healthier preparation methods.
The Responsibility Deal embodies the Government’s ambition
for a more collaborative approach to tackling the challenges caused
by our lifestyle choices.
What is this telling us?
The local and national statistics, together
with the local and national strategies which cover the wide
spectrum of food issues demonstrate that a large amount of effort
is still needed in order to tackle the issues of food poisoning,
obesity and food related health concerns. Bedford Borough
Council is not immune to the serious issues that are evident across
the country and sustained effort needs to be made in the following
a) Further measures
are required in order to reduce the levels of food poisoning,
especially in terms of Campylobacter, Listeria and E coli 0157,
through initiatives which inform, educate and encourage positive
behaviour change to both business and the public. A continued
and concerted effort is needed to ensure food establishments’ FHRS
ratings are improved.
b) Continued joint
effort is required to assist other departments / agencies to help
reduce obesity and other nutritional lifestyle issues such as heart
disease, diabetes and some cancers, through targeted strategies.
This is particularly the case with regard to food
establishments who now contribute a sizeable proportion of the
population’s food intake.
c) As ‘eating out’
diets significantly contribute to an individual’s overall calorie
intake, focussed initiatives to improve food safety and nutritional
standards within food establishments should be considered. As
younger people tend to eat out at an increased frequency compared
to older demographics any interventions should be targeted at
establishments where these age groups eat out.
d) Initiatives should
tap into the potential offered by business in promoting public
health messages and agendas using ‘responsibility deal’ style
initiatives, in line with government advice / guidance.
What are the key inequalities?
1) In terms of overall food poisoning levels,
no local correlation exists regarding food poisoning prevalence and
associated socio-demographic or socially disadvantaged
groups. Men and older persons are however less likely to
carry out FSA approved food hygiene practices in the home.
2) While everyone is susceptible to obesity,
levels are disproportionately higher in the lower
socio-demographic, socially disadvantaged groups and some ethnic
3) Young persons are more likely to eat out
than older demographics. As food eaten outside the home
comprises a higher proportion of calorie content young persons are
therefore at an increased risk to gaining weight.
What are the unmet needs/ service gaps?
1) Insufficient data exists to demonstrate any
link between food poisoning levels and the socio-demographic or
socially disadvantaged groups. As such this area of work
should be considered nationally in order to determine whether such
a correlation exists.
2) The proportion of food businesses not
meeting standards identified through the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme
demonstrates a continual need to promote good hygiene practices in
3) Existing joint initiatives to promote
healthy food choices and tackle poor nutritional preparation
methodologies in food eateries are currently very limited in scope
and insensitive to health inequalities.
1) To continue to roll out the Food Hygiene
Rating scheme from 1100 premises to approximately 1500 within 12-18
2) To contribute to the Excess Weight
Partnership Strategy by engaging with food businesses to support
the development and provision of healthier food choices to the
3) To continue to evaluate health inequalities
of Bedford in the areas of food poisoning and home food hygiene
education. Devise appropriate and focused initiatives to
reduce the risk of food poisoning in the home targeting high risk
This chapter links to the following chapters in the JSNA:
- Excess Weight
(Children and Young People)
- Excess Weight
1. Data taken from Food
Standards Website - available at http://www.food.gov.uk/[Accessed
2. The Food Hygiene
and Rating Scheme: Guidance for local authorities on implementation
and operation – the ‘Brand Standard’ Rev3, Food Standards Agency
2014 - Available at http://www.food.gov.uk/[Accessed
3. Food borne
Diseases Strategy 2010 – 2015 An FSA programme for the
reduction of Foodborne disease in the UK Version 1.0 Published May
2011 - Available at http://food.gov.uk/multimedia/pdfs/fds2015.pdf
4. Bedford Unitary
Authority Health Profile 2015 (Public Health Observatory) Public
Health England 2015 - Available at:
5. Obesity: A
Position Statement, Faculty of Public Health 2013
6. Healthy Weight,
Healthy Lives toolkit for developing local strategies, Faculty of
Public Health 2010
7. Exploring food
attitudes and behaviours in the UK: Findings from the Food and You
Survey 2012, TNS BMRB, Policy Studies Institute and University of
Westminster, Social Science Research Unit, Unit Report 20, Food
Standards Agency 2013 - Available at
8. Food Statistics
Pocketbook 2013, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
- Available at:
9. Statistics on
obesity, physical activity and diet: England 2013
10. The Health and Social Care
Information Centre 2013, Bates et al, 2010; Department for
Environment Food and Rural Affairs, 2007.
11. National Child Measurement
programme (NCMP) data 2011/2013 - Available at: http://www.hscic.gov.uk/ncmp
12. Healthy Lives Healthy people - Our
Strategy for Public Health in England (2010), Department of Health,
November 2010 - Available at:
13. Healthy Lives, Healthy People: A
call to action on obesity in England, Department of Health,
2011. Available at:
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