Petition pushes government to protect catering industry

Efforts by the Nationwide Caterer’s Association (NCASS) to reverse EU proposals that would see caterers charged up to £500 a time for routine hygiene inspections look as though they will be successful.

As reported on CateringInsight.com last week, NCASS claimed proposed changes to the EU Regulation 882/2004 had the potential to destroy the independent catering industry as an original clause providing exemption for small businesses was removed without consultation.

NCASS launched a petition to members following news that the exemption for ‘micro businesses’ employing less than 10 people or with a turnover of less than €2m (£1.65m) had been removed, ahead of a vote in the European Parliament.

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In just 24 hours the petition received more than 1,000 signatures and gained support from Glenis Willmott MEP, Leader of the European Parliamentary Labour party.

As a direct result, Willmott stated that her political group would re-table an amendment calling for small businesses to be exempt from the requirement to pay fees.

This commitment meant that the issue was raised for a vote last Tuesday and backed by the Labour party.

Following a vote in favour of the amendment, the first hurdle has been cleared and the next stage is to push to make the amendment legislation.

Mark Laurie, NCASS director, said “This vote is a great start, and we are delighted with the result, but there is certainly a long way to go. The Food Standards Agency had given us the impression that there was significant opposition to re-instating the exemption from various EU governments. There is no guarantee that even with the support of some MEP’s this will go through but it is a promising start!”

At the time of writing, Laurie admitted it was still not clear whether the clause has been fully re-instated, but said he thought it unlikely considering the determination of the authorities to remove the clause without consultation.

He said NCASS would now move onto the next stage of its fight. “We are encouraging people to continue to sign and promote our petition to put pressure on the Government and European Parliament in order to make sure the clause is permanently reinstated to protect small businesses.”

Laurie added: “We fully appreciate the need for proper financing for Environmental health services; they provide a crucial service protecting the public and assisting food businesses to maintain the necessary hygiene standards. But we also believe the best way to deal with this is through proper consultation which recognises the unique nature of our industry and potential problems that could be caused by a one-size-fits-all approach.

"We believe that the new amendment will allow the flexibility required to support a vibrant and profitable independent catering industry and well funded Environmental services."

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