§ Mr. Gordon Prentice
To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions how many and what percentage of(a) fresh food outlets, (b) fresh food wholesalers and distributors and (c) fresh food processors were visited unannounced by environmental health officers or Meat Hygiene Service inspectors in each year since 1995. 
§ Ms Stuart
I have been asked to reply.
Information in the form requested is not held centrally. The numbers of inspections and visits to food premises by United Kingdom local authorities is as follows:
Number 1995 828,937 1996 827,035 1997 787,047 1998 745,601 1999 734,573
Variations over time in the number of inspections and visits may reflect a number of factors, including changes in the number of food premises and the risk-based frequency of inspections.
As part of the Food Standard's Agency's arrangements to strengthen its links with local authority enforcement, a programme of audits of local authority enforcement services has been introduced. The audits will include checks on the adequacy and effectiveness of local authority enforcement services.
In addition to local authority inspections, the Meat Hygiene Service attends licensed fresh meat and poultry slaughterhouses, cutting plants and cold stores for the purposes of enforcing meat hygiene and animal welfare legislation and carrying out meat inspection and meat marking. Attendance by approximately 1,600 inspection staff ranges from full time to weekly visits, depending on the type of licensed premises. MHS staff make no unannounced visits to licensed premises, except principal official veterinary surgeons, who visit to check the effectiveness of MHS staff in carrying out their duties.