The FSA’s reforms have faced increased scrutiny since the scandal involving 2 Sisters

The chair of the Food Standards Agency has insisted the regulator will be pushing ahead with controversial reforms to the system of food safety inspections, despite opting to shelve some elements of its plans.

The FSA board decided this week to stick with plans in its Regulating our Future (ROF) programme that include a much greater use of industry data and third-party auditing as part of the FSA’s flagship Food Hygiene Ratings System.

The board heard studies had shown there was “sufficient commonality” between the BRC Global Standards audit processes and food hygiene checks carried out by local authorities to press ahead with the plans.

However, while endorsing the “overall direction” of ROF, the FSA has shelved plans to set up a nationwide system of Certified Regulatory Auditors. FSA chair Heather Hancock said it had been decided the plans lacked a proper funding model and admitted it had attracted widespread opposition, including from local authorities who saw it as a threat to their own roles. The CRA model would now only be explored in specialist and niche areas where skills are lacking, she said.

The FSA’s reforms have faced increased scrutiny since the scandal involving 2 Sisters, but Hancock insisted the regulator was acting “entirely in line” with recommendations from MPs on the Efra committee, who have been investigating the scandal.

“Having read the committee’s findings on 2 Sisters and having spoken to the chair of the committee I’m convinced that what we are doing is entirely in line with what those MPs have been calling for. It has identified exactly the same sort of movement we want to see from the industry,” she said.

Last month an inquiry by the Efra committee suggested UK food audits and inspections were full of loopholes and easy to game.

The committee also criticised the FSA for not having a system to tap into industry accreditation schemes.

Whilst the FSA looks set to give a major new role to BRC Standards, the board also raised concerns about how ROF would work to oversee tens of thousands of businesses in the much less self-regulated out of home sector.

A report to the board meeting said: “Whilst there are a number of 3rd party assurance schemes in operation in the feed, primary production, dairy hygiene and food manufacturing and processing sectors there is no such scheme in the UK applicable to catering establishments.”