Supermarkets and c-stores selling meat, fish, dairy products and eggs have been warned they face immediate closure if an environmental health officer so much as suspects they have breached hygiene rules.
Meat industry bosses say new powers, set to come into force from next year under new food hygiene regulations, could see parts of stores or even whole outlets shut down instantly for what they claim are often “trivial” reasons.
Under current rules, a similar regulation, Regulation 10, covers abattoirs and meat cutting facilities. It gives vets the right to issue a Remedial Action Notice and shut down parts of factories or whole plants at a moment’s notice, without applying to a court or providing firm evidence of a rule breach.
But if an authorised official, such as an environmental health officer, currently wants to shut down a retail outlet, an application first needs to be made to a magistrate. However, in a current consultation, the FSA is proposing that Regulation 10 is extended to cover any premises selling food of animal origin, once the new Food Hygiene Regulations come into force on January 1.
The Association for Independent Meat Suppliers, which represents abattoirs, said Regulation 10 had been “abused on a massive scale” since it was introduced in 1995.
Technical and legal advisor Stephen Lomax claimed: “It has been used hundreds of times - 600 times last year alone.
“It has been used in cases of unbelievable triviality, in one instance because of an untidy changing room. Regulators need powers, but there also need to be checks and balances.”
The BRC said it would consult members before it took a position on the regulation.
The FSA’s consultation closes on December 13.