By David Shrimpton
The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has warned the Government "in the strongest possible terms" that the proposed licensing system for food businesses should be about raising standards rather than raising money.
In its response to the White Paper on the new Food Standards Agency, submitted last week, the CIEH argued that licensing should not be viewed primarily as a way of funding the agency.
"The real point of licensing is that food businesses would need prior approval before operating. The licence could be withdrawn if a food business failed to maintain standards," said CIEH assistant secretary Ann Goodwin.
The Government has received around 360 responses to the White Paper, the consultation period for which ended last week. Work has now started on the draft bill setting out the powers of the new agency in more detail. The draft bill will be put out for more discussion before going before Parliament next year.
But the British Hospitality Association (BHA) says the licence proposals are "misconceived", arguing that environmental health officers have sufficient powers under existing legislation to close down unhygienic restaurants. "It's not necessary to have the complex bureaucracy of a licensing system," said deputy chief executive Martin Couchman.
The BHA is also keen to ensure that the proposed levy on the food industry to meet the costs of the agency should be fairly distributed.
The Restaurateurs Association of Great Britain also welcomed the agency in principle, as it should boost consumer confidence. But the association opposes any levy on food outlets, which it claims could hit jobs. It is also against licensing, preferring to stick with the current registration scheme.
IRISH restaurant licensing laws are archaic and should be changed, according to Henry O'Neill, chief executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland.
The system of Special Restaurant Licences (SRLs) introduced in 1988 has too many conditions and is not working, O'Neill said this week.
Before 1988, restaurants were only permitted to serve wine. An SRL allows qualifying premises to serve a choice of drinks to accompany a meal.
"We are hung and tied with the Special Restaurant Licence," said O'Neill. "At the moment we have to have all drinks cleared and out of sight by 12.30 am. And you cannot have a drink one half-hour after a meal is completed."
Now the association wants all restaurants that have a restaurant certificate and a wine licence to be allowed to sell other drinks with as little fuss as possible. "When visitors come to Ireland they don't want to drink only wine as a complement to food," said O'Neill.
The hotel and catering industry turns over £40b a year and employs two million people in more than 300,000 outlets, says the British Hospitality Association's new yearbook. The report, pulling together all the industry's key statistics, is available from the BHA priced £195. Call 0171-404 7744.
Eaton Group has signed two new deals with a combined turnover of £450,000, both in London. Catering at Withers solicitors was previously managed by Sutcliffe, while the contract at industry lobbying group the Construction Federation is new business.
Plans have been announced for a £4m hotel complex on the outskirts of Lincoln. The owners of the city's Grand Hotel want to build a 60-bedroom hotel with conference facilities and a leisure club.
Sutcliffe has won a £400,000-turnover rolling contract to feed 1,700 staff at ladies' tailoring firm Daks-Simpson in Glasgow, starting after Easter. The service was previously run in-house.
New deal convert
Hotel company Stakis has signed up to the Government's New Deal, designed to get young people off the dole and into work.
A one-day seminar dealing with the latest information on nut allergies will be held at the University of Reading on 6 May. For details call Food Industry Training Reading on 01189 318217.