Manufacturers and retailers have broadly welcomed publication of the country's first set of standards to control the way food law is enforced at a local level. The common standards, drawn up by the Food Standards Agency in conjunction with the Local Government Association and the Local Authorities Coordinating Body on Food and Trading Standards, comes into force in April. The initiative was immediately welcomed by the Food and Drink Federation, which said the national standard would "enhance the consistency of UK food law enforcement whilst retaining delivery at a local level and benefiting from local expertise". And the Association of Convenience Stores said it was a "really positive" step. Public affairs manager James Lowman said: "The role of enforcement should be about improving standards, not meting out punishments. This provides a benchmark, and the tone of partnership will also please members. Local authorities had very different approaches to enforcement; now they have clear guidelines." From April, local authorities will be required to produce a service plan outlining how they will comply with the new standard. The FSA will monitor their activities and produce an annual report allowing consumers ­ and retailers and manufacturers ­ to compare the performance of all 499 local authorities. A working group is also being formed to oversee the implementation of the new standard and provide a central forum for discussion to deal with enforcement issues as they arise. Tom Murray, head of the FSA's local authority enforcement policy division, said the initiative was "a radical step in the development of relations between central government and local authorities". He said it would help environmental health officers do their job while reassuring the public and industry that the law was being interpreted and implemented fairly and consistently. {{NEWS }}