There is no doubt that 2022 has been a tough year for many, in particular for the hospitality sector. Rising utility costs, disrupted supply chains, labour shortages, and, more recently, strike action on the transport network have been major challenges the businesses have had to face.
However, 2022 did highlight the importance that hospitality venues hold to our lives daily as we saw crowds of people enjoying the World Cup at their local pub, and Christmas parties being celebrated up and down the country without being held behind closed doors or confined to groups of six.
Rob Easton, Head of Environmental Health at Shield Safety looks back at 2022 and what he believes lays ahead for 2023, addressing key topics affecting the industry.
Legislation – Calorie Labelling
April 2022 saw the introduction in England of the new calorie labelling legislation for food businesses employing more than 250 people. With the aim of addressing the rising obesity crisis, the new law was widely met with criticism and dismay. Many businesses lacked the information, technology, and understanding to accurately calculate the calorie content, and the evidence from previous similar interventions found there was only a small impact on calorie intake achieved, with a reduction of only 47 calories per person whilst eating out of home (this being less than one custard cream biscuit).
Obesity is one of the most significant public health issues in the UK and poor diets are known to impact so many aspects of health. However, the debate continues as to whether the labelling changes were proportionate and whether the anticipated benefits of reduced calorie intake will be achieved in the sectors of society suffering from obesity.
Many businesses used the change in the law to rationalise ingredients and bring more discipline to the menu management process. This undoubtedly had benefits for some businesses, but it was a further cost and lost time that many could’ve done without. As we look ahead to 2023, there is still uncertainty if calorie labelling will remain or will be cut as part of the removal of red tape by the government.
Legislation – The Challenge
Usually, at this time of year, we would be discussing significant legal changes to be implemented in either April or October. However, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill means that the focus of the lawmakers will very much be on deciding what elements of EU regulations will be passed into new regulations. With 58 regulations pertaining to health and safety, 150 to food safety, and a deadline of the end of December 2023 for any remaining laws to be ‘sunset’, it leaves little capacity for changes in other legislation. We will watch carefully during the year to understand the possible impacts and ensure clients are informed of changes that will impact them.
Legislation – Newest Update
The Food Standards Agency has released a consultation on a revised approach to monitoring food standards. The proposed risk-based approach should bring a welcomed consistency across enforcing authorities and long overdue recognition of assurance and industry schemes. It is further hoped this is a forerunner to any changes in food hygiene ratings and an indication of similar changes to other parts of the Food Law Code of Practice. you can read a summary of the consultation and Safe to Trade’s feedback through the LinkedIn group – request to join here.
With rising costs and labour shortages, there is the concern that safety procedures fall as a low priority to many businesses. The focus is likely to be keeping the doors open and managing costs. However, shortcuts in safety can have catastrophic consequences, both to those injured or made ill and to the long-term viability of the business. Rising food costs can lead to food that is unfit to be used, as businesses aim to protect margin. There is also the risk that businesses may engage in food fraud, either intentionally or by accident. The pursuit of reducing costs could mean using ingredients that are not from assured supply chains and have not been through the rigorous checks expected. Similarly, businesses could be the victim of fraud and fall foul of a deal that is too good to be true.
The Food Standards Agency has produced some excellent guidance on avoiding food fraud and a summary can be found here. As businesses feel the squeeze further in 2023, this guidance is more relevant than ever.
The use of technology is essential to provide the ability for businesses to monitor and understand their safety performance, even more so whilst the standards are under threat from cost reduction and labour shortages. For multi-site locations, the risk is even greater as the watchful eye may be some distance from the business and there is the challenge to monitor performance across many businesses that are geographically spread.
During COVID-19, businesses rapidly adopted tech-based solutions to ensure the continued running of their businesses. This means many are already benefitting from paperless monitoring systems and real-time reporting on safety performance. For those yet to adopt it, they risk falling behind the pack and not benefitting from the efficiencies, savings, and reassurance that standards are being maintained. Good businesses will report daily on sales and labour costs and are likely to report frequently on stock control and profitability. If a business relies on monthly internal checks, or even worse the sporadic visit from the EHO, to monitor safety performance, then labour savings, stock management, and other controls will always take precedence over safety.
Looking into 2023, businesses must give safety reporting the same priority and frequency that the other key elements of their business controls benefit from and ensure a balance of metrics in performance reporting.
Remote working is here to stay. At the sharp end of hospitality, there is little opportunity for remote working, as teams need to be present to deliver the goods or services. However, larger businesses are likely to have a support team who are working from home. The pandemic saw a rush to get people set up remotely and many zoom meetings saw laptops perched on kitchen tables and people working from their sofas.
As remote working has now become the norm for many, then businesses must ensure that the correct controls are in place to maintain employees’ health, particularly in preventing musculoskeletal conditions. Musculoskeletal conditions, such as back pain and neck or arm strains, are ranked as a top reason for years of living with a disability. These conditions are not always related to work, but it has been estimated that nearly half a million people suffer from work-related musculoskeletal disorders every year.
If a business has not done so already, then 2023 must see them recognise changes in working practices and ensure remote working teams are fully looked after.
2022 was the 50th anniversary of The Robens Report. This hugely influential report paved the way for safety improvement in Great Britain, with the implementation of the Health and Safety at Work Act and the creation of the Health and Safety Executive. Improvements over five decades will now mean that Great Britain has one of the lowest rates of fatal and non-fatal work-related injuries across Europe. On the 50th anniversary of the Robens Report, the Health and Safety Executive published their 10-year strategy and they set out the priorities they have identified up until 2033.
The new strategy identified that the most commonly reported cause of work-related ill health is now stress, depression or anxiety. It is estimated that 17 million working days, that’s just over half of all working days lost, were because of poor mental health related to work. As we look into 2023, businesses must consider mental well-being in the same way they manage the risk of physical injuries in the workplace.
2023 will bring with it some new safety challenges, coupled with those which businesses have been long familiar with. To do our part in supporting the industries we love, in the new year, we will be launching our new Shield Safety Sessions. This monthly webinar series will bring guest presenters and leading experts together to share best practices, propose innovative approaches, and help make safety simple, luckily for you, there is one coming up in February. Our FREE CPD webinar will take place on Thursday 9th February, click here to register – limited spaces available!
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