Cr Wayne Honor voted against the recomendation.
Cr Wayne Honor voted against the recomendation.

‘SLAP IN THE FACE’: Why Honor voted against new food ratings

A new food rating system was put before the Bundaberg Regional Council this week and there's concerns the changes could leave a sour taste for some businesses.

Cr May Mitchell put forward a recommendation for the council to endorse the implementation of their own council food hygiene rating system, Think Food Safe, in the ordinary meeting on Tuesday which was seconded by Cr Learmonth.

When putting the recommendation to the councillors, Cr Mitchell said the council launched the Eatsafe program on 1 July 2014.

Reading the background, she said despite a significant investment and various benefits of Eatsafe, the take up rate and display rate of the Eatsafe logo by food businesses had not been high.

"A couple of points on why the Eatsafe is not working: a fully complying 3-star rating under Eatsafe is considered 'good'. Very few premises will display a 3-star rating as this is considered "average" by consumers," she said.

"A 5-star rating requires significant paperwork, and this is difficult for our food premises to implement and maintain; even for some of our excellent food premises."

Cr Mitchell said consumers were not actively looking for premises displaying an Eatsafe logo.

She said Eatsafe was not flexible and couldn't be modified to include new priorities such as, eat healthy, the effective use of COVID plans or the promotion of locally grown foods.

"Many other councils are experiencing similar problems," Cr Mitchell said.

Councillor Wayne Honor spoke out against the motion "in part".

"First of all I'd like to congratulate all the participants in the Eatsafe program over the last six years," he said.

"It has been a program that has been successful in some ways and it has been lacking in others; but what I want to say is the businesses that have participated have been very intrepid in their [work] towards goals in their own business.

"I witness some of these businesses that have gone above and beyond, in my opinion, to comply with the star-rating program in the Eatsafe - there's some business who have been very, very attentive to all the rules in the program and they've achieved that five star rating and maintained it throughout the years that this program has operated …"

He said this program had promoted good practice among food businesses across the region.

"I know especially in my town of Gin Gin, that's on the Bruce Highway, there's people who regularly visit 5-star rated businesses there every time they travel through the town - so they do recognise that they are exceptional in the way that they maintain their premises," Cr Honor said.

"I'm concerned, Mr Mayor, that there'll be a 20 per cent reduction in the benefit that they achieve, or that they have achieved, with the 5-star rating.

"They will lose 20 per cent to the new Think Food Safe program and I think it's somewhat is a slap in the face for those business that have worked until late in the evening cleaning their premises, doing repairs; that they'll feel that they've been reduced back to an average rating."

Cr Honor said there was further concern regarding fees and charges with trade waste and other food business fees may rise.

Cr Honor said while there had been discounted charges towards trade waste through covid, they would "come again" and it was those loadings that made it difficult for small traders to continue.

"On those concerns Mr Mayor I'm not in favour of this part of the new policy, the reduction of 20 per cent on their regulatory charge; and hence, I'm going to vote against it on those principle," he said.

According to the meeting agenda, any business complying with the Food Safety Standards can display the Think Food Safe logo.

"The better their inspection score/documented systems the higher their discount for their food license," the document reads.

The motion was carried with a majority vote.

At the start of the ordinary meeting, Cr Tracey McPhee advised she has a declarable conflict of interest in the matter as she has several food licences but wished to stay and vote on the matter.

The councillor's voted and the majority was in favour of her staying - Cr Wayne Honor, Cr Mitchell and Cr Jack Dempsey voted against her staying.

The next council ordinary meeting is April 27.

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