A petition launched in opposition to EU regulation changes that will increase costs for small food and catering businesses has attracted more than 1,500 signatures. The changes concern the removal of a clause protecting small businesses with less than ten employees or with a turnover of less than two million Euros from having to pay for environmental health visits.

This will mean it is compulsory for the Government to charge full cost recovery of EHO visits to micro businesses previously exempt from these fees.

In response to this petition, started by the Nationwide Caterers Association (NCASS) and supported by MEP and leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party Glenis Willmott, the Labour Party has voted in favour of an amendment to protect small businesses from these charges. To push for this amendment to become law, the petition is ongoing and more signatures are being sought.

Charges could “halt growth”

Director of the NCASS Mark Laurie believes these changes could prevent the growth of the street food industry which had doubled in size each year for the past four years.

He said: “It will also impose significant and unnecessary costs on the event catering industry which is already struggling to cope with rents which are rising at around 20% per annum, in addition to rising fuel and food costs.”

Mr Laurie is particularly concerned about the added costs mobile caterers who have to go through multiple inspections at different locations are likely to incur.

“Unlike restaurants, mobilers move around the country, working at events and markets, where some of them get inspected at every event they go to regardless of their food hygiene score,” he said.

“If caterers have to pay for Environmental Health visits every week, when by law they only need to be inspected every 18 months, they will struggle with the costs, which could come to hundreds or even thousands of pounds per annum. These micro businesses simply cannot afford this unnecessary tax.

“It seems such a shame that with small businesses so vital to the recovery of the British economy, we are now facing this tax being imposed on us by a European Parliament that doesn’t seem to understand our role in driving growth.”