Fears over council’s ability to cope with another food scare

Reporter:

Phil Robinson

FEARS have been raised that Wrexham Council might not be able to deal with another major food poisoning scare.

Members of the environment and regeneration scrutiny committee were yesterday asked to approve the council’s latest Food Service Plan, which details how officers will enforce food laws and control rogue traders.

A report from Andy Lewis, the authority’s head of housing and public protection, says food service officers faced a challenging time last year partly due to the impact of the complex investigation into the E.coli outbreak in July, 2009.

Four people were struck down by the killer bug, including young mum Karen Morrisroe, of Rhosnesni, who nearly died.

The former operator of a fish bar in Llay was eventually prosecuted for causing the outbreak and was jailed for eight months.

Mr Lewis says in his report that conducting the probe has had a major impact on the working of the food safety team over the past 18 months and the department was forced to take on outside contractors to tackle the backlog of routine inspections of food outlets it caused.

There are still 47 outlets ranked as “high risk” awaiting inspection this year.

Cllr Geoff Lowe, Labour member for Acton, said: “If we ever find ourselves in that situation again I hope we would be able to find the assets to investigate it. I hope we would not find ourselves being unable to investigate through lack of resources.”

Cllr Lowe suggested cuts to all council budgets might make the situation even worse.

Toni Slater, service manager for public protection, said: “We do try to maintain a very high profile despite the economic situation.

“We have to focus our resources on the businesses that are not operating properly.”

Miss Slater added the department had been able to obtain enough funding from a Food Standards Agency “fighting fund” to take on an extra part-time officer to work with poorer performing food premises.

See full story in the Leader

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