SHOCK audit figures have revealed more than half the Capital’s food businesses were overdue an inspection or had never been rated.
A report by Food Standards Scotland said there were 6,488 food firms listed in Edinburgh, including manufacturers, distributors, retailers and restaurants.
But it found 2,886 were overdue an inspection and 915 were unrated.
The “capacity and capability” audit carried out on the city council earlier this year said the authority did not have enough staff to carry out the required inspections.
And it warned some cases were not being investigated as thoroughly as they should be.
The audit said: “Two microbiological sampling results reported by the food examiner were not investigated. The authority reviews all results but does not routinely investigate borderline results unless they show the presence of pathogenic organisms. These results could indicate a potential public health issue that should have been further investigated.”
Twenty establishments had been subject to Hygiene Improvement Notices, 20 to a Remedial Action Notice, 36 to voluntary closure and 2,208 to written warnings in the previous 12 months.
But the report contained a red warning saying: “Controls are not acceptable and have notable weaknesses.” And it called for “urgent mitigating action”.
It said there were 20 environmental health officers, whose main focus was food safety although they also had other responsibilities. It said staff numbers had fallen by around 20 per cent since 2013/14. And it added: “The lack of staff does not appear to be budget-related as there are sufficient financial resources and available posts.”
It noted recruitment exercises in 2017 and 2018 had failed to attract sufficient suitable applicants.
The audit said the authority did not have an approved Food Safety Service Plan in place for 2017-18 at the time of the audit; and it did not have satisfactory enforcement policies for either food hygiene or food standards in place as these were both out of date and required to be reviewed and updated. Many officers had also not completed the required ten hours of food-based continuing professional development as required by the Food Law Code of Practice.
Environment convener Lesley Macinnes said: “This council, along with other local authorities, has been affected by the lack of qualified Environmental Health Officers nationally and will continue recruitment efforts to secure suitably qualified staff who would allow the council to deal with the number of lower risk premises awaiting intervention.
“Resources have been targeted at an intervention scheme at high risk premises in recent years in order to ensure the safety of the public. This has had an impact on lower risk, category C inspections and we are currently working to catch up on these as quickly as possible.”