On 1 September 2015 SHG announced via a press release that St Helena will be updating its food safety legislation.
The full legislation comprises the Food Safety Ordinance and Subsidiary Regulations:
- Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations – a set of general requirements applying to all the food businesses and food premises on the Island
- Food Safety (Products of Animal Origin) Regulations – product specific regulations applying in addition to the Food Safety (General Food Hygiene) Regulations in premises where extra controls are needed such as those manufacturing or processing products of animal origin for sale to other businesses or for export.
The public and stakeholders will be consulted on the proposed new legislation in the coming months. Leading up to the consultation, proposed changes to the legislation will be published in the local newspapers and discussed on radio to ensure the public is informed of the changes and how they might be affected.
This first article aims to provide a summary of the proposed new Food Safety Ordinance.
A new Food Safety Ordinance will contain the powers of the state and of the officers delivering food controls along with offences and defences. The Ordinance will also include the power to make regulations.
In addition, there will be a code of practice for procedures such as inspection reports, monitoring, outbreak investigations etc.
The new regulations will replace some of the existing regulations made under section 19 of the Public Health Ordinance. The new Ordinance would amend the existing Public Health Ordinance, removing, for example, the power to inspect and seize non compliant food (section 54) and the requirement on Bake House operators to limewash annually (or equivalent) (section 18).
The advantage of this approach will be to streamline the legislation. Requirements relating to specific products and premises would be consolidated and collected into one place. It will also allow for any repeats or inconsistencies to be clarified.
Putting procedures into a code of practice makes the delivery of controls more flexible and responsive – as it is not necessary to alter legislation when a change of procedure is needed. It can also be used for guidance and to provide templates for forms and enforcement notices.
THE FOOD SAFETY ORDINANCE
This is the main Ordinance covering food safety. Where possible and appropriate, the original wording from existing St Helena food legislation has been retained. The following explanatory notes give some of the justification and reasoning behind the structure and wording of the new draft Food Safety Ordinance.
Interpretation (Part 1)
The definitions from existing St Helena legislation have been collated and expanded to include definitions of words used elsewhere in the legislation.
- Food – the definition of food is a simplified one.
- Food Business Operator – has been used instead of owner or proprietor because it means that the person in charge of the business at the time of inspection or incident can be held responsible in the event of ownership being unclear. It includes managers and employees as well as those with an ownership. It will still allow enforcement if the owner is not on St Helena.
- Placing on the market – has been included as it allows the safety requirements to apply throughout the food chain when transfer of food occurs or when food is being processed. The requirements are not limited to occasions when a sale can be demonstrated.
- Bake Houses – have been defined as places where products are made for sale, thereby including private homes making cakes and other baked goods for retail or wholesale.
- Meaning of Sale – this extends the meaning of sale to food that is supplied in the course of a business, for example given as a prize or supplied during a stay in hospital.
- Presumption that food is intended for human consumption – This section specifies that food found on a food business will be presumed to be intended for human consumption unless otherwise marked or specified.
Implementation (Part 2)
- The legislation refers to the Regulatory Authority as being the authority responsible for the implementation of the Ordinance and its regulations. This is defined as the Public Health Board, as in the Fish and Fish Products Ordinance. The Board is now identified as the enforcement authority for the entire food safety legislation. Any prosecution should be taken in the name of the Regulatory Authority.
- The Ordinance specifies that the Regulatory Authority SHALL enforce and execute the provisions, thereby laying a duty on the Authority.
Authorised Officers and the Food Authority
Authorised officers will carry out duties on behalf of St Helena Government, specifically in the name of the Food Authority. Officers acting on behalf of the Food Authority will be appointed by the Governor and will have specific powers.
- Details of the duties of the Food Authority – for example how to inspect fresh meat or imported foods are contained in the proposed annexes to the Ordinance.
- The Food Authority is usually defined as the authority responsible for the delivery of official controls, i.e. whoever employs the authorised officers. It is proposed to name the Health Directorate as the Food Authority and the Public Health Board as the Regulatory Authority.
- The Food Authority has the responsibility for the delivery of official controls, i.e. ensuring that checks are carried out on Food Business Operators to assess their compliance. The Regulatory Authority has the responsibility for enforcing the provisions of the legislation.
- Any enforcement action will be taken in the name of the Regulatory Authority, not in the name of the officer personally. But, the action will be taken upon the recommendation of the authorised officer and may be implemented by him or her.
- Authorised officers acting on behalf of the Food Authority should not be held personally liable for their actions.
Power to Make Regulations
- The power to make regulations under the Ordinance rests with the Governor in Council. The subjects covered by the Ordinance take into consideration the potential expansion of the food industry on St Helena. By making regulations under the Ordinance all the relevant provisions, including definitions, powers, offences, defences and administration, apply to the regulations.
- The power to make regulations which require payment by the Food Business Operator for delivery of controls has been included to accommodate the possibility of cost recovery.
- The power to make regulations requiring the display of documents in a food premises has been included to allow the option for premises to be required to display any food hygiene rating which might be developed.
Offences (Part 3), Defences (Part 4), Enforcement (Part 5) and Administration (Part 6) will be summarised in next week’s article.
9 September 2015