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Friday, June 22, 2012

Transparency and the food business

Last year a comment here about developments regarding transparency and food hygiene standards in Queensland and the ACT- both in the news again recently. I haven't kept track of developments across the board in this area in recent times. (Update: a reader draws attention to the SA Food Act Prosecutions Register- but publishing convictions in court is no big deal, as recent developments in Queensland show.)  There is a research project  for someone interested in looking into this at the national level, or on a comparative basis across state jurisdictions, to see what effect various degrees of transparency have on compliance with hygiene standards, and importantly, on outcomes in terms of public health.

Thanks to reader Tara for a heads up on RIOT ACT's comments about developments in the ACT where scores on doors is being discussed amid doubts raised in an Auditor General's report about the ACT government's capacity to manage a much less ambitious scheme.

The (Queensland) Sunday Mail revealed a few weeks back under a heading that didn't  quite match what followed (Black-list eateries named and shamed), that some instances of "food to die for" don't make it into the public domain because only convictions are required to be published. The SM reports the LNP Government will now shut down the register and consider the introduction of a mandatory "scores on doors" rating scheme. Voluntary schemes are being run in Brisbane and Logan.
An analysis of council reports obtained under Right to Information laws show eateries prosecuted and fined $40,000 or more over breaches last year were among those not mentioned on the Queensland Health public register, while others fined as little as $2000 over lesser offences are included. Those to escape the public register include a sushi restaurant fined $45,000 after inspectors found a "serious risk to public health". A cafe hit with court fines after hundreds of cockroaches were found on site by inspectors is another to escape naming and shaming. The business owners all got away without having convictions recorded, meaning Queensland Health will not list their names on the register. Meanwhile, a Red Rooster restaurant fined $50,000 for breaches last year did have a conviction recorded but still escaped the list.
Six years ago Matthew Moore of the Sydney Morning Herald did some pioneering freedom of information work successfully digging out instances of poor food hygiene standards after initial knock-backs for information about compliance with standards for all sorts of confected reasons. Disclosure followed, exposing some of the worst cases, followed by improvements, with the NSW Food Authority publishing a register that includes penaly notices as well as convictions. In 2010 NSW notched up further to a voluntary (and that's an issue) scores on doors program.

I haven't kept track of developments in the other states.  

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous1:24 pm

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