Food firms facing health crackdown

Thursday March 10th 2022

Edinburgh Foodies 2

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

Food firms in Midlothian have been warned they face a crackdown if they are caught putting profit before public health as the county recovers from the impact of the pandemic.

Midlothian Council has said it will be next year before food safety inspections resume normal service after they were suspended in March 2020.

But they warned they are ready to take action against anyone caught profiteering as they continue to maintain support for the hospitality industry.

Speaking at a virtual meeting of the council’s cabinet meeting this week, chief officer place Derek Oliver, told elected members that environmental health workers became front line staff when lockdown began, working alongside other key workers to keep essential services going.

And he said as businesses emerge from the pandemic the work continues with a focus on the impact the current cost of living crises could have on those working in the sector.

He said: “The environmental health service was and continues to be at the very forefront of the council’s response to Covid.

“It worked shoulder to shoulder with the NHS public health teams and Midlothian police in ensuring we were kept safe and the communities in Midlothian were safeguarded.”

“With the increase in fuel costs, materials, utilities and supplies together with potential employment impacts, environmental health will require to maintain vigilance and inspection across our food safety business sector assisting and facilitating where welcomed and necessary and enacting robust enforcement on those who put profit before public health.”

Mr Oliver said environmental health workers, including those normally involved in carrying out food safety inspections, had joined frontline staff during the pandemic helping set up food banks, community kitchens and a mortuary facility.

He said they carried out regular patrols during lockdown to ensure businesses were closed or following rules in place and supported NHS in contract tracing.

They were also involved in giving expert advice to police investigating an illegal gathering of more than 300 people in the summer of 2020.

Despite the suspension of routine inspections of food premises food safety officers continued to respond to requests for support or intervention.

Mr Oliver said it was hoped the normal inspection programme would be back on track in the first half of 2023.

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