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 therefore the population as a whole. 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
It is therefore paramount to ensure that all
consumers have food which is wholesome, healthy and nutritious.
This can be achieved through the adherence to strict food
legal frameworks and guidelines which all food producers, caterers
and retailing businesses have a duty to comply with. It is
also vital that the public has the knowledge of what their food
contains, how it is prepared and the effects food has on their
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 1400 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) Approximately 96% 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 4% 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 2016 Bedford Borough Council
received and investigated 377 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 Safety
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 1300 businesses
have a food hygiene rating score, the remainder will be targeted as
they arise or new food business registrations are received.
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 26 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 prepares 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:
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.
Ensuring that all outbreaks of infectious disease are investigated
in line with Public Health England guidelines.
Promoting awareness of good food safety practices through a
programme of food hygiene training and health education and advice
Other local documents include:
2) The Bedford Health Profile 2012 (ERPHO,
2013) which has identified healthy eating as a priority in
3) Bedford Borough Council Public Health and
Wellbeing Strategy 2012
4) 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:
Raising public awareness of good food handling practices
Improved data sharing between agencies
Increased publicity of the food hygiene rating scheme
Increased support for businesses in achieving food hygiene
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 and 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 healthier food choices are available.
This same document refers to participation in 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
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
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.
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.
‘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.
2) There are still food businesses in
the borough that do not meet satisfactory food hygiene
standards, identified through the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
This demonstrates a continual need to promote good hygiene
practices in businesses.
3) Existing joint initiatives to promote
healthy food choices and tackle poor nutritional preparation
methodologies in food eateries are currently limited in scope and
insensitive to health inequalities.
1) To continue to implementation of the Food
Hygiene Rating scheme for food businesses within Bedford
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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