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Evaluating the use of remote assessments by local authorities for regulating food businesses


This report presents the findings of a short evaluation carried out by ICF on the use of remote assessment techniques by Local Authorities across England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, for carrying out food hygiene and food standards assessments following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. The evaluation consisted of 20 interviews with a diverse typology of LAs, and with two food businesses, exploring the stakeholders’ experiences of using remote assessments. Findings reflect that Local Authorities followed the Food Standards Agency’s advice as to how and when to use remote assessments. Research revealed that they were mostly used to enable exchanges of documentation and information about food businesses pre-inspection, to identify key points of focus for subsequent onsite visits, as well as, in certain business contexts, to help local authorities determine whether an imminent onsite visit was required or could be delayed to a later time. All local authorities interviewed that had carried out some type of remote assessment agreed that these techniques had been useful to enable work to continue safely during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to prioritise making visits to the most urgent cases. A smaller subset of the Local Authorities interviewed explored the use of remote techniques to assess businesses in different ways, obtaining additional information remotely, and using the time spent onsite with food businesses more effectively. The findings are followed by a set of best practices identified by officers and further advice
requested by them for enabling continued use of remote techniques beyond the Covid-19 pandemic context.

Mar Maestre
ICF Consulting Services Ltd