Compliance Audit of Environmental Health Department: Food Safety Management

3rd May, 2024

The Office of the Auditor General is pleased to announce that its report entitled Compliance Audit of the Environmental Health Department: Food Safety Management was presented to the Legislative Assembly on April 22nd, 2024.

Background: The Environmental Health Department (EHD) within the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) provides training and issues food-handlers’ certificates. The EHD carries out food-safety inspections either routinely or by request and also issues certificates of wholesomeness of meat for export. This Compliance Audit assessed the Department’s compliance with relevant regulations, best practices, and internal policies and procedures for the management of food safety.

Key Findings:
(1) There are clear lines of accountability. Reports on the internal operations are prepared for the EHD’s management. Quarterly reports are also prepared for submission to the relevant stakeholders (e.g., Ministry of Finance) and mainly for monitoring the progress of the Department in attaining its objectives over a period of time.
(2) Adequate laws and standards are not in place. The EDH is governed by sections of the Public Health Act and the Public Health Ordinance, but they do not explicitly address a Food Safety Management System. A Food Safety Bill (2020) and a related Food Safety Policy are in the draft stage, but the Bill has been in the consultation phase for some years.
(3) Current documents that govern operations. The EDH is not being guided by enacted laws for the management of food safety. Instead, to fill that legislative gap, it refers to other internationally respected documents in its daily operations: such as the 5 keys to Safer Foods by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and ServSafe.
(4) Non-registration of food establishments; but a list is kept. Best practice requires that all businesses that sell, cook, store or handle, prepare or distribute food must register with an oversight authority regardless of where they operate (e.g., home-business, café, hotel). However, there is no law that mandates business-owners to register their establishments so that they may be inspected.
(5) Inspections are done, but not regularly enough. The EDH has internal policies and procedures for regular inspections of known food-businesses. However, its records show long gaps between inspections of many businesses.

Key Recommendations
(1) Strengthen the legislative framework for better alignment and outcomes. As the Department is heavily reliant on its limited resources to carry out its duties, management and the officials in charge should work assiduously to enact legislation relating to food safety management. In this way, the EDH will be governed by valid local legal authorities that relate to food safety management, giving the EDH full responsibility to act, and greater powers of enforcement.
(2) Registration of food establishments should be enforced. Once it is made mandatory in the interest of public health, prompt registration and regular updates will enable the EDH to keep a complete and accurate list of all food businesses on the island, so that they can be visited and regularly inspected by the Environmental Health Team.

The report in its entirety can be found at the Montserrat Public Library; the Office of the Auditor General’s Publications Page; or by requesting an electronic copy from the Office of the Auditor General, located upstairs Angelo’s Complex, Brades. E-mail:; Telephone: (664) 491 – 3460 or 491 – 4569.