REHIS News – September 2023

Director of Professional Development

The Institute is pleased to welcome Carol Walker, Chartered EHO to the position of Director of Professional Development. Carol will start on 9 October where she, along with Jacqueline Cunningham will work together in delivering the Professional Development function.

We would like to express a huge thank you to Karen Keeley, who leaves us in October. Karen has achieved a vast amount of work in her time at the Institute and will be very much missed. We wish Karen all the very best for the future.

Professional Examination

The Professional Interview diet is taking place Tuesday 26 – Thursday 28 September 2023 at the Carnegie Conference Centre, Dunfermline. The Institute wishes the best of luck to all candidates.

Presenters Seminar – 11 October 2023

We have had a big response to the Presenters Update Seminar which is taking place on Wednesday 11 October in Perth, with many centres recognising the value of the day and eager to attend. There are still some spaces left but please note the closing date for booking is Thursday 28 September 2023. For more information REHIS Presenters Update Seminar – REHIS

REHIS Website

There are lots of resources on our website, so please check it out, whether you are a member and wish to access additional learning resources in the members only section, or you are a Presenter wishing to update your training resources, or you are simply interested in learning more about the work of the Institute. Royal Environmental Health Institute of Scotland – REHIS

Environmental Health Update and Annual General Meeting

The free to members Environmental Health Update is being held as a hybrid event on the morning of Friday 17 November from the Edinburgh Training and Conference Centre. This event will be followed by the Institute’s 23rd Annual General Meeting REHIS Environmental Health Update/AGM – REHIS

Local Levers for Diet and Healthy Weight

Obesity Action Scotland have published a new report that will support the work of local authorities and health boards across Scotland as they take forward Whole System Approaches to Diet and Healthy weight.

The levers to change our food system exist at local and national level. Actions across the whole system will be required to deliver healthy weight for all in Scotland.

Local levers for diet and healthy weight are actions available at the local level – for local authorities, health boards and schools, as well as the private and third sectors – to support community health by ensuring everyone can get affordable, healthy food and drink, and integrate safe and enjoyable physical activity into their daily lives.

This report has reviewed the evidence and recommends seven measures which can be utilised as part of a place-based approach to addressing diet and healthy weight.

The seven local levers for diet and healthy weight in Scotland are:

1. Restrict food marketing
2. Utilise planning to improve food environments
3. Strengthen public food procurement and provision standards
4. Work with the out of home sector to reduce calories on the menu
5. Improve up take of school meals
6. Promote and support physical activity
7. Protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and healthy diets for children.

It further supports moves to work with the out of home sector to reduce calories on menus, promote and support physical activity, protect, promote, and support breastfeeding and healthy diets for children, and improve uptake of school meals.

On launching this report Lorraine Tulloch, Programme Lead said:

” We are delighted to launch this report, written in conjunction with University of Edinburgh.  It offers clear actions that can be progressed at a local level.  Together we can all shape our food and physical activity environments to support healthy weight and protect and improve the health of the Scottish people.”

The author Prof Lindsay Jaacks of University of Edinburgh said:

“It is possible to halt the rise in obesity in Scotland and achieve a healthy weight for all. None of the local levers alone will have a huge impact, but with continued evaluation and improvement, together they can.”

Minimum Unit Pricing Consultation

A proposal to increase the Minimum Unit Price of alcohol by 15 pence per unit to 65 pence is included in a new consultation on the future of the public health policy.

Views are being sought on whether to continue the Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) legislation beyond the current term which ends next April, and the level at which it should be set.

Legislation setting the price was laid in March 2018 and approved in Parliament in April 2018.

The Alcohol (Minimum Pricing) (Scotland) Act 2012 contains a ‘sunset clause’ which sets out that the minimum pricing provisions expire at the end of the six year period (which ends on 30 April 2024) unless Scottish Ministers make provision to continue the legislation by laying an Order in Parliament.

A Scottish Government report on the operation and effect of MUP in its first five years, an Interim Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment and a report on public attitudes to the policy have also been published. These papers assess the success of the measure so far and look at the future impact on health and industry sectors if it is continued and the potential effects of different minimum price levels.

This builds on Ministerial engagement with business and health stakeholders which has taken place throughout the summer.

Drugs and Alcohol Policy Minister Elena Whitham said:

“The recent rise in alcohol-specific deaths highlights the need for more to be done to tackle alcohol-related harm.

“Our world-leading Minimum Unit Pricing (MUP) policy is one of the measures we know can make a difference. Recent research estimated it has saved hundreds of lives, likely averted hundreds of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions each year – and also contributed to reducing health inequalities. It is one of a range of measures we have in place across prevention and treatment services to reduce alcohol harm.

“We believe the proposals set out in this consultation strike a reasonable balance between public health benefits and any effects on the alcoholic drinks market and subsequent impact on consumers, but we want to hear from all sides and urge everyone to take the time to respond.”

Annual report for Public Water Supplies published

Drinking Water Quality Regulator (DWQR) have published the 2022 Annual Reports for Public Water Supplies.

In 2022, Scottish Water carried out a total of 297,284 regulatory tests on Scotland’s drinking water with
numerical standards and many more for operational reasons such as following a burst main. Of the 139,971 tests taken to represent water at consumers taps, 99.92% complied with the standards. In 2022 Scottish Water carried out sufficient water sampling as required by the regulations and the data shows a continued high level of compliance with standards. A further 60,671 tests were carried out on water supplied from treatment works and all but 25 of these tests met the required standards which is similar to the previous year’s performance. 96,642 tests were also taken from service reservoirs (SR), where treated water is stored. Compliance here was similar to 2021’s performance.

Of particular note during 2022 was the detection of Coliform bacteria at two of Scottish Water’s service
reservoirs Darvel SR and Kerse SR which required customers to boil their water as a precaution whilst investigations took place. Our assessment showed significant failings in Scottish Water’s maintenance of these assets. Further investigation into the approach to maintenance and inspection of service reservoirs has shown a backlog of inspection and repair. The DWQR are currently progressing enforcement action to ensure a robust programme of work is implemented to address this in the fastest possible time.

The Water Industry (Scotland) Act 2002 requires DWQR to publish an annual report describing the Regulator’s activities during the preceding year. This report summarises data on water quality in public and private supplies across Scotland, as well as covering water quality events and incidents, consumer contacts to Scottish Water and DWQR activities throughout the year.

Also published are separate documents detailing water quality performance and giving a summary of the water quality incidents that occurred in 2022.  The Private Water Supplies Annual Report will be published in September 2022.

All previous Annual Reports can also be found on the website.

Notice of the Institute’s 23rd Annual General Meeting

Notice is hereby given that the Institute’s Annual General Meeting will be held in hybrid format on Friday 17 November 2023 at 2.00pm at at the Edinburgh Training and Conference Venue, 16 St Mary’s Street, Edinburgh EH1 1SU, or remotely by MS Teams.

Members will receive further details included with their AGM papers which will be sent out in October. The election of members to the Council will take place at the AGM. If any member wishes to make a proposal at the AGM, please contact the Chief Executive by 28 September 2023.

FSA publishes updates to best practice guidance on food allergen labelling

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published updates to their best practice guidance on food allergen labelling.

This best practice technical guidance aims to support food businesses when applying allergen labelling, whilst helping to keep consumers safe. The update supports the FDFChange Management of Allergen Information guidance (Opens in a new window), also published today. 

The FSA technical guidance is recommending a number of changes in relation to how food businesses should use Precautionary Allergen Label (PAL) and is advising that food businesses should: 

  • Only apply a PAL if there is an unavoidable risk of allergen cross-contamination which cannot be sufficiently controlled by segregation and cleaning. 
  • Specify which of the 14 major allergens the PAL refers to – for example, using “may contain peanuts” rather than a generic “may contain nuts” statement. 
  • Use PAL statements in combination with a ‘vegan’ label where a risk of cross-contamination with an allergen has been identified. A ‘vegan’ label communicates different information to a ‘free-from’ claim, which is food safety information aimed at different consumer groups. 

The technical guidance goes into further detail about why businesses should not use a PAL statement alongside a “free from” statement and gives updated information on best practice for the use of No Gluten Containing Ingredient (NGCI) statements for food businesses in the non-prepacked food sector.  

Natasha Smith, Deputy Director of Policy at the FSA said:  

“While the use of PAL is voluntary, it is important that it should be as accurate and helpful to consumers as possible when it is applied. The updates to this guidance will help businesses to effectively manage allergens, and ensure those living with food allergies and intolerances get the greatest possible benefit from PAL. 

The guidance also helps make clear the distinction between a ‘vegan’ claim, and a ‘free from’ claim. A ‘free-from’ allergen claim should guarantee that the specified allergen is absent and to use it a food business must have implemented strict controls to eliminate any risk of cross-contamination.   A vegan claim is not about food safety, and our new guidance highlights that a PAL statement for any or all of molluscs, eggs, fish, milk and crustacea (foods that are both regulated allergens and animal products) can be used to communicate a risk of their unintended presence, where this has been identified by a food business’ risk assessment.

We continue to encourage consumers who have allergies and intolerances to check the label of food products at all times, to make sure the food does not contain ingredients they may be allergic to.”  

The FSA will continue to treat food hypersensitivity as a priority area. Future work will include working with international Food Standards bodies to influence the introduction of allergen threshold standards and continuing to find ways to improve the provision of allergen information including considering the need for standardisation in this area. 

As well as the updated Technical Guidance on Food Allergen Labelling and Information Requirements, FSA have also published a summary of the responses received to the consultation held between 27 March and 22 May 2023. More than 80 responses were received from a wide range of businesses, industry bodies, local authorities, allergy organisations and members of the public. 

Leading the charge against food crime

Ron McNaughton, Head of Food Standards Scotland’s Food Crime and Incidents Unit, explains to New Food Magazine, how it is tackling food crime.

In 2013 Europe witnessed one of its most infamous cases of food crime when a huge amount of products, including burgers, were discovered to contain horse meat. But what is food crime and how are we trying to keep consumers safe?

Food crime is defined as any deliberate manipulation, substitution, mislabelling or instance of fraud in relation to food. Counterfeit and substandard food and drink can make its way into the supply chain at any stage – from wholesale domestic and international distribution networks to the local corner shop – and the increase of sales online is exacerbating the threat that food crime poses to the public.

Unlike more obvious criminality, food crime deceives customers and may put consumers’ health at risk. Food crime affects all types of products and having access to the global marketplace means that we need to be more vigilant in the fight against this type of criminality.

The Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU) is the incidents, investigations and intelligence gathering arm of Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and leads the charge against food crime. It has dedicated intelligence, analytical and investigation teams who analyse, develop and action information received from a wide variety of areas, including members of the public, food business operators, industry whistle-blowers and other partner agencies.

In Scotland, we work with partners such as Police Scotland and local authorities to develop intelligence-led operations against criminals who seek to make profits from food crime that can potentially put the health of consumers at risk.

While food crime is financially motivated and can vary from low level criminality to complex fraud across supply chains, it can have serious and deadly consequences.

Since FSS’s establishment in 2015, several food crime cases have been reported to the Procurator Fiscal following SFCIU investigations, ranging from fake Scottish tea sold to luxury hotels to a powdered chemical sold to people wanting to lose weight rapidly.

Early this year, in a landmark case for FSS, Jamie George (32) was sentenced at Stirling Sheriff Court to 37 months in jail for distributing 2,4-dinitrophenol (DNP), a highly toxic industrial chemical.DNP has tragically been responsible for at least 33 deaths in the UK since 2007 and is not safe for human consumption.

FSS staff, plus police officers and Falkirk Council employees, recovered 5kg of DNP, 120 filled capsules and 10,000 empty capsules as part of the investigation. His sentencing came as a result of a joint investigation between FSS’s Scottish Food Crime and Incidents Unit (SFCIU), Police Scotland and Falkirk Council’s Environmental Health department.

The case is the first of its kind involving DNP to be prosecuted in Scotland and is the first major criminal investigation to lead to a conviction for the SFCIU. The sentencing sends a clear message that there are consequences for those individuals who are prepared to put peoples’ lives at risk in order to profit financially from food crime.

As part of tackling food crime there are three key lines of defence that can help ensure that food is both safe and authentic. These are food businesses and industry; regulators and law enforcement; and consumers.

One of the most common questions I’m asked is: “How can people spot food crime?”. My advice is simple: if something seems too good to be true – significantly reduced in price especially in the current climate – or promises unrealistic results, then the chances are it probably isn’t genuine.

FSS recently launched its Food Crime Risk Profiling Tool, an online programme which allows companies to assess their vulnerabilities to criminality.

Using the tool allows businesses to assess themselves against a series of statements on topics, such as how they source materials and their supply methods, before being given an individual report at the end which will highlight areas of good practice as well including specific guidance on areas they may wish to improve on.

To support businesses through this process, FSS will be holding several free online workshops later this year to help develop opportunities to increase authenticity and improve food crime resilience – those who sign up to the tool will receive an invite to the workshops.

Prevention is the key to winning the battle against food crime. We felt it was important to support the food industry through crime prevention in order to protect businesses and, ultimately, consumers.

And while we look to better support industry, law enforcement agencies cannot tackle food crime without the support of the public and particularly those who work in the food and drink industry. FSS and Crimestoppers launched the free Scottish Food Crime Hotline in 2016 to give members of the public and industry a dedicated place to report anonymously any suspicions of food crime. The confidential hotline number (08000287926) is operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week and you can also make a report anytime via Food Standards Scotland’s website.

World Environmental Health Day – 26 September 2023

Every year, 26 September is marked as World Environmental Health Day across the globe.

World Environmental Health Day is observed to raise awareness regarding the significance of the health of our environment.

The theme for the 2023 is “Global Environmental Public Health: Standing up to protect everyone’s Health each and every day”.

The theme reflects the consistency with which the global environmental health workforce has been addressing the myriad of environmental health challenges and issues to prevent illness and promote human health and the environment.

Environmental health Officers represent one of the largest subdivisions of the global
public health workforce and must be recognized for the delivery of the essential environmental public health services. Current challenges include climate change and the climate-sensitive health risks posed and the resultant health outcomes as well as potential outcomes for health systems and facilities. Other global environmental health challenges include food safety and security, chemical, air and water pollution, solid and hazardous waste management, sanitation and wastewater management, vector proliferation, poor housing, and disaster risk reduction. At the policy and management levels in many countries, there needs to be greater urgency in embracing and introducing appropriate technology to enhance the work and productivity of Officers.

According to World Health Organisation (2016), global environmental issues account for more than 12.6 million deaths each year. Along with the issues mentioned, include soil pollution, ultraviolet radiation, and biodiversity loss. According to the data, more than 100 illnesses and injuries can be directly linked to environmental health concerns. Often, these issues have the greatest impact on communities that are poor and already have significant health care vulnerabilities.

At least 155 states recognise their citizens have the right to live in a healthy environment, either through national legislation or international accords. Despite those protections, the World Health Organization estimates that 23 percent of all deaths are linked to “environmental risks” like land and air pollution, water contamination and chemical exposure.

The last decade was the hottest in human history and we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, with wildfires, floods and hurricanes becoming regular events that threaten lives, livelihoods, and food security. Climate change also affects the survival of microbes, facilitating the spread of viruses, and expanding the range of vectors. If no action is taken, pandemics are likely to occur more frequently, spread more rapidly, have greater economic impact, and kill more people.

WEHD provides the opportunity for Environmental Health bodies around the world to promote our work to the public and policy makers and to involve them in events planned for the day.

A primary activity of any public health strategy is information sharing. By understanding what the risks are, Environmental Health Professionals can better deploy resources to protect everyone’s health each and every day.

For more information about the day and how it is being celebrated across the Globe see here

UK Parliament produce report on the effects of artificial light and noise on human health

The UK Parliament House of Lords Science and Technology Committee have published a report on artificial light and noise and their impacts on human health. The report concludes that environmental noise and light remain neglected pollutants that are poorly understood and poorly regulated despite their potential to negatively impact human health.

Both noise and light pollution impact negatively on human health through disrupting sleep and circadian rhythms. Epidemiological evidence suggests that noise pollution causes annoyance and increases the risk of stroke and heart disease. Research from the UK Health Security Agency suggests the equivalent of 130,000 healthy life years are lost from noise pollution each year in Britain. This has significant impacts on the economy: sleep disturbance is estimated to cost the UK economy £34 billion a year, according to RAND Europe, and noise and light pollution are contributing factors.

The Committee is concerned that the UK Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan only briefly mentions noise and light pollution, with no specific targets to reduce them, and that there is seemingly little impetus from central government to address them. Light and noise pollution can all too often fall through the cracks between departments and between policies from central government and local government implementation on the ground, with responsibility for tackling the issue unclear.

Key recommendations in the report include:

  • DEFRA should work with UKHSA and other organisations to assess the significant, growing evidence on the harmful health effects of noise.
  • DEFRA must establish a standard methodology for tracking, monitoring and reporting on light pollution. This should include a regular survey to understand both indoor and outdoor exposure to artificial light at night, so its health impact can be quantified.
  • The UK Government should set up a noise expert advisory group, as exists for air pollution, to provide independent advice to the Government and a venue for new evidence, particularly on emerging health effects, to be assessed.
  • The UK Government should set a specific target to reduce the health burden from noise pollution, and identify and implement cost-effective interventions using its new mapping tools. This target should be in place by the time of the next five-year Environmental Improvement Plan cycle.
  • The UK Government should strengthen interdepartmental coordination on light and noise pollution. Departments with the “levers” to act on light and noise pollution should be incentivised to respond to the problems identified by DEFRA.
  • The UK Government should resource and incentivise local authorities, both in terms of funding and access to information and expertise, to ensure they can properly regulate light and noise pollution in line with its targets.

The Chair of the Science and Technology Committee Baroness Brown said:

“Throughout our inquiry we’ve heard of the growing global evidence base for the significant negative impacts of environmental light and noise pollution on our health.

“Not only can they cause annoyance, impacting quality of life, but through the disruption of sleep and circadian rhythms, both noise and light pollution can contribute to heart disease and premature death.

“Whilst the increased risk to an individual may be low, the exposure of millions of people results in a significant aggregate health burden. Forty per cent of the British population are exposed to unhealthy levels of noise pollution from road traffic and research from the UK Health Security Agency suggests that in 2018, 130,000 healthy life years were lost in the UK.

“Yet, despite these significant health impacts, light and noise in the UK seem to have become neglected pollutants, poorly understood and poorly regulated. We are concerned that there are no specific targets for regulating light and noise pollution, and a lack of coordination between departments, and between central and local Government, which is preventing the Government from tackling these problems.

“The Government should focus on quantifying the health effects of noise and light pollution, set targets and a framework for regulation to reduce the overall burden of disease. It should do this by the time of the next five-year Environmental Improvement Plan cycle. It must also strengthen co-ordination between departments and between central and local government, to ensure meaningful improvements in public health and quality of life in the UK for the benefit of all.”

Read report The neglected pollutants: the effects of artificial light and noise on human health (

Single use vapes ban considered

The Scottish Government plan to consult on plans to ban the sale of single-use e-cigarettes (also known as vapes), following the announcement of their Programme for Government.

The Programme for Government outlines a commitment to take action to reduce vaping among non-smokers and young people and to tackle the environmental impact of single-use vapes, including consulting on a proposal to ban their sale and other appropriate measures.

Research suggests that almost one in five (18%) of adolescents have tried vapes. Zero Waste Scotland estimates that up to 26 million disposable vapes were consumed and thrown away in Scotland in the last year, with 10 per cent being littered and more than half disposed of incorrectly.

Where vapes are incorrectly disposed of, the batteries increase risk of fires at waste centres and on collection vehicles that can damage equipment paid for by the taxpayer or even be a risk to personal safety.

With millions of vapes littered every year, there is a significant and increasing cost to local authorities through litter clear up and waste management.

Following a request of Scottish Ministers, the Circular Economy Minister and Public Health Minister will meet with counterparts in the UK Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive to discuss the findings of recent research and potential policy responses.

In addition, action to help ensure that children, young people and non-smokers do not use these devices will also be set out in this year’s refreshed Tobacco Action Plan, which will set out our road map to 2034.

After publishing his first Programme for Government, First Minister Humza Yousaf said:

“Disposable vapes are a threat to both public health and the environment.

“We know that the bright colours and sweet flavours catch the eye of children and young people in particular. The World Health Organisation has said there is evidence to suggest that young people who have never smoked but use e-cigarettes, double their chance of starting to smoke tobacco cigarettes in later life.

“Last year we consulted on restrictions on the advertising and promotion of vaping products. Any action we seek to take will build on the regulations already in place to restrict the marketing, promotion and sale of vaping products to under 18s and the findings will be used to inform the refreshed Tobacco Action Plan.

“On the environment, the evidence is undeniable – from litter on our streets, to the risk of fires in waste facilities, there are issues which demand action.

“We will be working constructively with retailers and other stakeholders to come up with solutions. While we will be asking for views on a ban, we are also keen to explore other interventions that could have a more immediate impact. 

“Of course, this is not just an issue for Scotland – these problems are being experienced all over the UK and we will soon be holding discussions on potential solutions.”

The Scottish Parliament has successfully taken action to ban the supply and manufacture of certain single use plastic products due to their environmental impact. Action on single use vapes is likely to require a similar exclusion from the Internal Market Act.

The consultation on the proposed ban will be held in the next year.

REHIS News – August 2023

Health and Safety Update

The annual health and safety update will take place on the morning of Wednesday 6 September, through MS Teams. Places are still available. Details of the programme for the morning and a link to the booking form can be found here REHIS Annual Health and Safety Update – REHIS

Northern and Southern Centres

Both the Centres are holding their AGMs with events in September – for more information please see Events Archives – REHIS

REHIS Community Training Annual Presenter’s Update
Wednesday 11 October 2023, Dewars Centre, Perth

This is a full day event, 9.15 – 4.15 and for the first time in four years will in person only. We have scheduled a variety of speakers to present on a wide range of topics in Food Hygiene, First Aid, Health and Safety and other related topics. This is an ideal event for Presenters to hear about any recent updates and changes,  ask questions and facilitate CPD. For more information, please visit REHIS Presenters Update Seminar – REHIS

Specialist Investigator’s Course 

The specialist investigator’s course is running in Stirling, 28 August to 1 September. This course was fully subscribed. If you missed out on a place on the course and would be interested in attending the course in the future, please e mail to indicate this.

Professional Examinations

Candidates for the REHIS Diploma in Environmental Health and SFSORB Higher Certificate qualifications, intending to sit professional interviews in September, have submitted the required portfolio or case study/reports. The next diet of interviews will take place at the Carnegie Conference Centre in Dunfermline on 26 – 28 September 2023. We wish the very best of luck to all candidates.

Learning Resources and CPD

We would like to remind all members of the new learning resources section in the members only area of the website, where links to CPD opportunities can be accessed. CPD submissions for 2023 should be with the Institute by 31 January 2024 and we would remind all scheme participants that the online system allows CPD to be recorded ‘as you go’, and attachments to be added, to avoid the need to search about looking for records at the end of the year. We would encourage EHOs to seek to achieve Chartered EHO status, demonstrating commitment to ongoing professional development and to the profession. The Scheme of Continuing Professional Development is available on the website here

Summer Journal

The Institute’s Summer 2023 edition of Environmental Health Scotland is available in two formats- pdf and e-magazine.


Protecting and improving public health is a fundamental objective of Environmental Health and the work of both REHIS and SOCOEHS. Recognising the contributions of our colleague, Martin Keeley, who sadly passed away in 2022, an award has been established to recognise individuals, groups or organisations for actions which have significantly promoted or improved Environmental Health (this can be for single element or wider environmental health).

Applications are invited for the award by the 30 September 2023 and should be submitted using this nomination form, and submitted to