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Is it the Food Safety Agency’s (FSA) Policy to single out Butchers for special treatment?

I love Balham, I love the people, the vibe and being the local butcher, however, the pressure I am put under by our local authority environmental department is beyond belief.

According to Peter Reddell, an environmental officer with Wandsworth, he has told me that my business is unique to Wandsworth and the FSA has told them to single such businesses out as the highest risk category.

Thus, butchers who are similar to Chadwick’s in concept, up and down the country are being singled out and victimized by their relevant local authority and the ‘Scores on the doors’ system is being applied differently to us. How are such businesses being victimized? The harassment and victimisation is caused by an incoherent and inconsistent approach by individual officers, they have been given powers above their experience. They are pedantic, mistrusting and difficult. They believe it is their job to tell you how you should run and layout your store when in fact they should be focusing on your Hygiene and critical control points (HACCP) and whether you have good implementation of these systems. one officer will come in and agree one system and another officer will do something completely different; it’s absolutely farcical.

The HACCP is a system that was designed by NASA for the protection and welfare of their astronauts.  The system identifies critical points in the manufacture and production of food that may be at risk to contamination or cross contamination and gives the manufacturer the opportunity to control those points through good hygiene practice.

We have good implementation of these systems and a full written procedure and training program to ensure our hygiene standards are the highest on the high street. Anyone who shops at Chadwick’s Butchers can see this when they walk through the door.

Nevertheless, the local authorities continue to harass us on a level that no one else endures in the borough of Wandsworth. I find it very upsetting when I walk past grotty pubs and restaurants that have 5 stars on their door when anyone can see that the tables are dirty the floors are dirty and the staff are poorly trained.

This makes a mockery of the ‘scores on the doors’ system and in my view it cannot be trusted. For example, I was in a so called ‘5 star’ pub and I was watching the staff behavior, bit of a habit I’m afraid to say; a member of staff took out a food order out of a grotty looking dumb waiter passed it to the customer, put the money in the till and then put their hand down the back of their trouser to scratch their behind! Unbelievable! They have been awarded five stars by Wandsworth! Why?

My friend who has a meat shop in a market in Wandsworth was told by an officer that because he is not on a high street and in a market the environmental officers are a lot more lenient towards his business and awarded him 4 stars! He can’t believe it! He thinks my shop is fantastic and the hygiene standards are far superior to his meat shop and he believes we should be awarded 10 stars never mind five.

It is not uncommon to see a range of businesses that are clearly grubby, poorly cleaned with disinterested staff displaying 5 stars on their door.They seem to be, in the main, the big chains and/or what is considered low risk.  Another trick that many businesses use is to put the Wandsworth council poster in their window because it has five stars on it, this gives the impression they have the top award! Have a look around and you will see the poster in restaurants and such.

How can any one business be considered a higher level of risk to an other? If you serve food and/or drink there is a risk of food poisoning and only good hygiene and systems will reduce that risk. So by awarding five stars to grubby businesses that are clearly dirty to the naked eye, you are sending out the wrong message to the public. You are also condoning poor levels of cleaning and increasing the risk of food poisoning not reducing it. therefore, the so called low risk businesses become a higher risk!

If the same level of inspection was administered to all the food businesses as it is to my butchers shop then you would see real changes on the high street in the ‘scores on the doors’ awarded to some of these businesses would drop from 5 stars to ones and twos.

As far as I am concerned it is pure discrimination to single out one type of business for special treatment and a stricter application of the scores on the doors system.It is clear that the standards of my business are evidently superior to that of other businesses along the same high street who have been awarded five stars. We have on display our organic certificate awarded by the farmers and growers, we have a double ‘A’ standard award by EFSIS (European food inspection safety team), We have countless awards by EBLEX for our quality standards and the Q Guild, Federation of meat & food traders. We have won Britains best butcher on two occasions, britains best sausage and so on and so on. So how can you apply one standard to one business and another to another? This just confuses and misleads the public.

We are fed up with some of the Wandsworh inspection officers approach and handling of the inspections at Chadwick’s butchers, which at times has been shocking and, in my view, unprofessional by certain individuals. If I explained some of the issues I have with these officers you would not believe it possible in this day and age. At one point I had to make an official complaint to my MP. I also had to take action with the help of the Federation of Food & Meat association.

Recently I have worked with the business, innovation and skills department lead by Micheal Fallon MP who has reported similar bureaucratic bullying and needless paper chases to European commission with the aim of removing all this unnecessary burden on businesses so we can grow instead of being stifled by local council officers who are, in my view, anti-business.

The cost of all this interference must be in the tens of thousands of pounds to my business and is in the billions of pounds to Britain as a whole. For me and my staff it has become so stressful that we are considering moving out of the Wandsworth area and probably will if the right opportunity comes up.

Nevertheless Peter Reddell, I believe,  has tried to ensure that this won’t be necessary, however, I have my doubts as the turnover of staff at the Wandsworth office is high and continuous. After five years of such treatment my staff and I are short on patience, we can only hope!

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