CTSI and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) have welcomed the publication of a new report from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which highlights the urgent workforce challenges facing the Trading Standards and Environmental Health professions.
The Our Food 2022 report, published by the FSA and Food Standards Scotland, identifies serious challenges in enforcement staff recruitment and retention. It also discusses the critical need to draw new talent into Trading Standards and Environmental Health to ensure public health and consumer safety.
FSA Chair Professor Susan Jebb, who helped launch the report in Parliament, said that increasing capacity in Trading Standards was a key priority for the agency. “Failure to recruit and train professionals to key posts can have reverberations for many years to come,” she said. “We ask governments across the UK, and others, to work with us to address these matters in the coming year so that people in the UK can continue to have food they can trust, and the strong reputation of British food abroad is maintained.”
Both CTSI and CIEH have agreed with that assessment, and have committed to “strategic collaboration and innovation in a bid to build sustainable professions in both Trading Standards and Environmental Health”.
Trading Standards Officer staffing levels fell between 30% and 50% across the UK between 2008/9 and 2018/19, with more than half of local authorities in the UK not confident that they have sufficient expertise to cover the full range of Trading Standards responsibilities.
Phil Owen, Service Delivery Director at CTSI, said: “Local government regulatory services are the front line of public protection, ensuring citizens have safe food to consume and products that are safe to use. Trading Standards and Environmental Health ensure that in times of national crises such as avian flu and global pandemics, they are there to respond.
“CTSI’s own analysis, based on consultations among its professional membership of front line Trading Standards professionals across the country, is that the situation is at a critical juncture — if investment is not made soon then there will be no competent officers available to deliver these essential Trading Standards services to protect the public.”
Louise Hosking, Executive Director of Environmental Health at CIEH, said: “The health of our communities and the wealth of our economies are inextricably linked. The professionals within our sectors are the custodians of this balance, tirelessly working to protect our communities in their workplaces and living environments. As we navigate through economic challenges, the intrinsic value of Environmental Health and Trading Standards roles must be recognised and championed.
“The decline in resources and focus on Environmental Health and Trading Standards has been of concern for many years. CIEH staff and our Board of Trustees recognise this as a key strategic priority, and we are dedicated to reversing this trend by ensuring that Environmental Health and Trading Standards professions are seen as attractive and vital career choices for the next generation. Our recently launched member engagement survey and planned Workforce Satellite Panel will play a pivotal role in this endeavour, by giving invaluable insights and by strategising on ways to attract, develop, and retain talented professionals who are fundamental to our mission for safer, cleaner, healthier environments for all.”
To strengthen Trading Standards food enforcement capacity, CTSI has recently completed a review of its Qualification Framework and developed standalone food and feed competency modules. These modules will be offered to local authorities to allow their Officers to gain food and feed competencies in line with the current Codes of Practice to deliver official controls. CTSI has also been working in partnership with the FSA to promote and provide high quality CPD learning and development to address competency gaps.
The Institute has also undertaken campaign work to shine a spotlight on allergens and vegan food, as well as showcasing how attractive a career in Trading Standards can be with its Anything But Standard campaign.
Read four CTSI Lead Officers’ responses to the FSA report here.