THERE has been a "disappointing level of compliance" at a "significant number" of food businesses in Clackmannanshire during the 2020-21 Covid period.

That is according to an end of year report by Clackmannanshire Council's environmental health team, which will tomorrow give elected members on the Place Committee an insight into food law enforcement.

The report, covering the financial year 2020-21, highlighted the extreme challenges posed by the pandemic for both businesses and the local authority and highlighted a 233 per cent increase in "businesses requiring intense interventions".

Routine food law inspections ceased back in March 2020, with ministerial approval, although interventions continued at so-called approved establishments, which handle, prepare or produce products of animal origin.

The team also undertook intelligence driven interventions where there was information to suggest fraudulent activity or risk to public health.

Meanwhile, there was a "continued upsurge" in new food businesses registering with environmental health, with many registrations for new takeaways or for changes of ownership.

The report continued: "Due to concerns about compliance with food law practices within the hospitality sector and the timescale that they had been left unchecked, the decision was made to restart food law interventions in September 2020.

"The focus was high street businesses, and particularly those that had been trading throughout the emergency period.

"Attention was also given to new takeaway establishments that had not previously been inspected."

Inspections had to cease again in December 2020 as the second wave of Covid-19 hit the county.

Altogether, council officers completed 23 food law inspections at new businesses and 68 at established ones while 54 revisits were also undertaken to follow up on significant issues.

This was less than a third of the workload completed in the year before the pandemic

The report, which will be debated by councillors on September 9, added: "Officers found a disappointing level of compliance at a significant number of establishments.

"In April 2020, there were only six businesses on intense interventions.

"By December 2020, this had increased to 20 and the majority were takeaways.

"This 233 per cent increase in the number of businesses requiring intense interventions over this short period of time confirmed the concerns that the poorly compliant businesses had been left unchecked for too long and standards had dropped."

However, the report also acknowledged that "emergency measures have created difficult trading conditions for food business operators".

Indeed, there were multiple closures as restrictions tightened, eased and tightened again.

Covid control measures also had to be implemented for both staff and customers and many had no choice but to change their business models in a bid to survive with a rise in delivery services.

In terms of enforcement action, council officers wrote 133 warnings to businesses during the year, concerning legal requirements.

No Hygiene Improvement Notices were served but three Remedial Action Notices were served due to serious non-compliance.

This led to the temporary closure of businesses under serious issues were addressed.

Two businesses closed voluntarily due to significant non-compliance but no reports were submitted to the procurator fiscal.