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Food, Health and Environment Relations

The Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs) play a myriad of roles ranging from monitoring the safety and quality of food eaten, overseeing the condition of houses people live in to safeguarding the health and safety requirements at the workplace (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 2009). Their overall duty is to ensure that the environment is not only safe in terms of food handling or living condition, they also invigilate the environmental policy legislation to ensure that they adhere to the letter for a sustainable environment. This essay briefly explores the role played by EHPs in ensuring food safety and quality, the regulatory framework in place as well as risk and proportionality in food quality in addition to how other stakeholders assist EHPs in monitoring the safety and quality of food eaten.

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The Food Safety Standards (FSA) have outlined general food laws in the UK to be adhered to. Some of the existing legislation include the Food Safety Act of 1990, the General Food Regulations of 2004, and the general Food Law Regulation in EC. These enacted legislations offer general guidelines to be followed when handling, distributing, and consuming food.

Environmental Health Practitioners make use of a variety of intervention measures to ensure that food safety is up to date. For example, they may opt to take informal action to make sure that all players handling food comply with legislation. Some of the common informal measures taken include but are not limited to issuing warnings where compliance is at its lowest, giving advice through consultations, and issuing assessment and mitigation reports regarding the inspection of food. Informal intervention measures are used by EHPs whenever the violation is not gross enough to call for formal action. In addition, EHPs have also ensured compliance through facilitating prosecutions, issuing statutory notices with the help of local food authorities, formal cautions as well as an injunction of business units that seriously violate the set laws (Lauterburg, 2001, 119). Besides, EHPs play the advisory role both to the public and other stakeholders interested in obtaining specific technical information on environmental health. In the process of offering their advice, they also educate environmental stakeholders on acceptable practices. As consultants, EHPs act as proxy managers on a myriad of environmental enforcement programs dealing with food safety and standards.

A myriad of regulatory reforms has been undertaken in the food sector to ensure that the intervention and enforcement measures are effective. A case example is in the adoption and implementation of new legislative measures that do not only seek to ensure food safety standards but also offer alternative and better solutions to avoid such scenarios such as food poisoning and contamination in general.

The Local Authorities (LAs) hire Environmental Health Practitioners to assist EHPs in the process of planning, implementation, and inspecting premises that handle food substances (Food Standards Agency, 2010). As a stakeholder, LAs play the role of employing specialists with the relevant skills and knowledge to enforce food and safety standards regulations (Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology, 2009). Besides, Environmental Health Practitioners apply risk-based approaches in the process of inspection planning. When employing a risk-based approach, the planning begins by identifying food premises that are likely to pose the highest threat or risk to the environment as well as those that pose the lowest risk when handling food (Lauterburg, 2001). Thereafter, an inspection of these premises is carried out on the basis of their level of risk. For instance, premises that pose the highest risk are inspected quite often compared to those that are of low risk in terms of food hygiene and standards.

Other stakeholders which assist the Environmental Health Practitioners to safeguard food safety include the Food Standards Agency (FSA) which plays the role of protecting the needs of consumers in food matters and the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) which plays the role in identifying the possible critical points where food can be contaminated (Food Standards Agency, 2010). These stakeholders are necessary for the process of law enforcement on matters regarding food safety standards. The Food Safety Standards is keen on ensuring that food handlers follow the due guidelines used to protect food from possible contamination. The agency receives full support from the government and its by-laws are equally in line with the general food safety act. On the same note, HACCP is mainly keen on identifying some of the most critical areas where food substances can be contaminated either through poor human handling or natural expiry.

Risk should also be enshrined in legislation to ensure the effectiveness of the role played by Environmental Health Practitioners (EHPs). It is imperative to note that enforcing legislative policies alone is not adequate in safeguarding food and safety standards. As part of enshrining risk in legislation, there is a myriad of recent developments that have been enforced. For instance, regulators have now been empowered to use other risk-related methods such as imposing monetary penalties on food handlers who fail to comply with the legislative requirements when handling food (Food Standards Agency, 2010). Moreover, key players in the food sector are supposed to undergo compulsory training on how to exercise food safety and standards owing to the fact that quite a number of them rarely seek advice or consultancy services from EHPs.

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References

Food Standards Agency (2010). Safety and Hygiene. Web.

Lauterburg, D. (2001). “Food law: policy & ethics”, London: Cavendish Publishing Limited.

Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (2009). Food Hygiene Standards. Web.

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