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Food Hygiene UK

The United Kingdom has a long tradition of protecting consumers from unsafe food by the legal control of food businesses. The earliest food hygiene UK legislation was contained in the Food and Drugs Act 1938. Section 13 of this Act laid down a list of nine requirements for food rooms, including their ventilation, cleanliness and the provision of washing facilities.

Originally planned to be introduced in October 1939, this earliest food hygiene UK law was not actually implemented until the late 1940’s because of the interruption of World War II. However, even when supported by local byelaws, it was not found to be effective in raising the standards of food hygiene. In 1955 public concern about poor food hygiene resulted in a new Food and Drugs Act and specific Food Hygiene Regulations but the effectiveness of food hygiene UK standards did not improve as the law remained difficult to enforce.

New Food Hygiene Regulations were introduced in 1960 and 1970 and, although they did result in a strengthening of the powers of enforcement officers,’ fundamental weaknesses in food hygiene UK legislation remained.

Significant improvements in food hygiene UK standards did not really begin until the 1990’s. Following a series of food scandals, including Salmonella in eggs, Listeria in pâté, and BSE in beef, in 1996 the country was shocked by a major outbreak of E. coli food poisoning in Central Scotland. This terrible outbreak resulted in the deaths of 18 elderly people. An expert group under the chairmanship of Professor Hugh Pennington undertook a major review of UK food safety.

The Pennington Group made 33 recommendations to improve food hygiene UK standards. They were all accepted by the Government and included the licensing of butchers’ shops and more guidance and funding for local authorities enforcing food safety standards. Since this time there has been some evidence that food safety in the UK has improved with a fall in the number of food poisoning cases since 1999. The latest UK Food Hygiene Regulations have the effect of implementing European Union Legislation that now applies across the whole of the EU.