What is your team responsible for?
The team’s primary purpose is to protect the health and wellbeing of people in North Tyneside by ensuring the safety and quality of food produced, prepared, distributed and supplied. We do this through a combination of education, promotion and enforcement.
Roughly how many people are in the food safety team?
There are six members of staff – a senior environmental health officer (Colin Smith), three environmental health officers (Clare Newlands/ Marcella Tunnell/ Martin Mcgowan), a food safety officer (Karen Sargent) and a sampling officer (Caroline Macgregor).
Describe a typical day in for the food safety team
A typical day often involves carrying out unannounced hygiene inspections to establish whether food is being handled and produced hygienically, whether it is safe to eat and to identify food poisoning risks. There are more than 1,400 food businesses in the borough – the majority being restaurants and takeaways – all of which are scored against a risk-rating scheme, categorised from A to E. Currently 93 per cent of businesses are compliant and we are aiming to maintain that in 2017/18.
You’ll also find us investigating any complaints – the depth and scope of the investigation is determined by the seriousness of the complaint and the risk posed to public health.
And if there any new businesses then it’s quite likely we’ll be working with them to ensure they are aware of legal requirements and directing them to appropriate information and resources. We actually offer a nationally-accredited Level 3 Course in Food Safety Supervision.
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What is the proudest moment for your team?
We successfully prosecuted a Chinese takeaway for a series of food safety and hygiene offences. The case generated significant local media coverage after our investigation discovered a dirty kitchen, inadequate cleaning processes and evidence of rats.
More generally we’re proud of the fact that, as region, we are the most consistent in the country at determining hygiene ratings. This is shown by the Food Standards Agency’s testing of enforcement officers’ hygiene ratings. Tyne and Wear is also the only area to have its own version of the national Environmental Health Rating Group, which we believe is a key reason for this achievement.
Tell us something that people may not know about the food safety team
Many people may be unaware of the work we do with regards to food standards. This involves ensuring that food is correctly labelled, its ingredients meet required standards and is of the quality and description described. People might be surprised to learn that food regulations allow the minimum meat content of a sausage roll to be as little as six per cent.