At the outbreak of the Second World War, local authorities were empowered under the terms of the Food Control Committees (Constitution) Order, (S.R. & O. 1019), to appoint Food Control Committees to represent the interests of the buying public and to provide a link between the Ministry of Food and local opinion. Local authorities were designated as appointing authorities because they were in the best position to select persons representative of all classes of the community, but once appointed, the committees had no further connection with the local authorities deriving all their powers from the Ministry of Food. In 1939 some 1,600 of these committees were appointed, but by 1945 the number had been reduced to about 1,400 by the amalgamation of a number of committees into Joint Food Control Committees. By 1950, when the need for controls had lessened and food was becoming more plentiful, this figure had been reduced still further to approximately 400 by the same process of amalgamation.
Committees were appointed annually, selecting their own chairman and vice chairman. They had no power to co-opt members, but could call in representatives of the retail food trades in an advisory capacity, but without voting power. The Food Executive Officer who was responsible for the administration of the local Food Office, was the chief officer serving the committee and acted as its secretary. He was responsible for advising the chairman when required and was the link between the committee and the ministry.
As the committees were primarily representative of consumer interests, it was laid down that two thirds of each committee should have no connection with the food trade. There were usually ten consumer members and five trade members on each committee, each of the latter representing a branch of the retail trade and nominated by the local retail food trade associations. In addition, one trade (employee) member was appointed to represent the local retail shop assistants and, in many areas, one consumer member was a trade unionist nominated by the local Trades Council. All committees had at least two women consumer members to represent the interests of local housewives. These appointments were all subject to the minister's approval.
The minister entrusted various functions to Food Control Committees the most important of which were the enforcement of his orders, licensing of local retailers and caterers, and the registration of consumers in each area:
Enforcement: committees appointed small sub-committees to consider local cases of infringement of all but a few of the minister's orders. If they were satisfied that a charge or complaint was well founded they had powers to prosecute before a Court of Summary Jurisdiction; but where the case was considered trifling, they could decide to issue warning notices only. They were assisted in this field by local or divisional enforcement inspectors who carried out all investigations.
Licensing: committees were also required to consider and issue licences to retailers and catering establishments (other than industrial canteens) and manufacturers of bread and flour confectionery. Where licences were refused, applicants had the right of appeal to the ministry and in such cases the committee could be asked to reconsider its decision. Where licensees were convicted of serious offences, committees were empowered to ask that the minister should use his powers and revoke the licence.
Consumer registration: committees were responsible for the issue of ration documents to consumers and for deciding upon all applications to change registrations from one retailer to another, except in cases where removal took place.
With the end of rationing and controls on 3rd July, 1954 the work of the Food Control Committees came to an end. Many of the committees had ceased to meet many months before because the easing of restrictions had left them with practically nothing to do. Where this occurred, the Food Executive Officer was authorised in consultation with the chairman to act on their behalf whenever necessary.