Worrying level of food tasting in town

ENVIRONMENTAL health officers at Boston Borough Council carried out only three food samplings at premises in the town in 2011 because of a drop in staff numbers and resources.

The department is supposed to carry out samplings once a fortnight in order to regulate the standard of food in the area, but a report by principal environmental health officer Trevor Darnes, detailing changes to food enforcement, revealed that pressure on resources had seen the number drop right down - despite worrying trends for an increase in listeria bacteria in cooked meat, which can cause serious illness.

However, even with suggested changes, the amount of samplings would only increase to six times a year - a substantial reduction in previous numbers.

At a meeting of the overview and scrutiny environment and performance committee on Wednesday, where the report was presented, Mr Darnes said: “It’s due to the limited resources and the focus on inspection targets. It has taken away the focus on things which really need to be done. Hand on heart I think the recommendations in the report are the right ones.”

Proposed changes to working practices include carrying out food tastings every two months, an increase in training in certain areas and alternative means of assessing high and low risk premises.

Coun Carol Taylor said: “This is a horrendous drop when it comes to people’s health. It’s absolutely dramatic. We appreciate there are limited resources, but this is about the health of the public.”

Councillors decided to approve the changes to working practices, dependent on approval from the Food Standards Agency. It will not go on to be considered by the authority’s cabinet.