Freedom of Information: a case study
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The purpose of this case study was to find out how easy it was to access information on the hygiene standards of eating places open to the public. Using the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act 2000, four adjacent local authorities in South Wales were asked to provide the last food hygiene report of an eating place in their area. The disclosed reports were assessed to determine how useful they would be to an individual seeking more information on a food premise. It was relatively easy to obtain information from two authorities and difficult if not impossible with the others. One local authority refused to release information despite the intervention of the FOI Commissioner. The quality of the information released was variable. This ranged from a completed comprehensive inspection protocol to a hand-written, illegible, incomplete report that failed to adequately differentiate between requirements and recommendations. Without some training in food law and food hygiene it would be difficult to interpret the reports. There was no evidence from the information provided of inspection scoring. The case study raises concerns about the effectiveness of the Act for consumers who wish to obtain information about the hygiene standards of food premises. While the specialist information provided by hygiene inspection reports may be useful to businesses it is not helpful for the lay public. Consumers must be prepared to exercise patience and tenacity if they want this information. Concerns must be raised about the consistency of the inspection process and about the willingness of some local authorities to be transparent about the inspection and enforcement process.
The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health
The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health, 126 (5), pp.228-232
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