UK Food Safety Concerns Remain Despite New Inspections Framework

Food policy experts fear that new Food Standards Agency measures don't adequately address food safety concerns after the Brexit.

Aug. 17, 2017
By Mary Hernandez

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The United Kingdom’s Food Standard’s Agency is set to intro­duce a new risk man­age­ment frame­work that it hopes will tackle the changes expected to occur in food safety law. This comes as the United Kingdom’s gov­ern­ment pro­ceeds with its plan to with­draw from the European Union, which will also lead to remov­ing itself from the lead­er­ship of Europe’s Food Safety Authority in just 20 months’ time.

Serious risks that stan­dards of food safety will decline if the UK ceases to adopt EU safety rules.- Food Policy Experts

Many key pol­icy mak­ers and researchers fear that Brexit will have cat­a­strophic con­se­quences for the UK’s food safety stan­dards, result­ing in relaxed food laws and food trade deals that cre­ate lower food stan­dards. It is feared this will even­tu­ally lead to the mar­ket being flooded with cheap, low-qual­ity imported prod­ucts from coun­tries with lower qual­ity reg­u­la­tions such as China and the USA. 

Currently, a third of the UK’s food sup­ply is brought in from the European Union, and the country’s with­drawal from the EU means that a large food trade part­ner­ship dis­solved. According to the Food Standard’s Agency, new reg­u­la­tions are being drafted as part of a proac­tive approach to address risks present in the cur­rent reg­u­la­tory sys­tem before an actual cri­sis occurs. 

It will rely on indi­ca­tors and data to deter­mine the risk being pre­sented by food busi­nesses, eval­u­at­ing the behav­ior and cul­ture of the busi­nesses in ques­tion. These new reg­u­la­tions will pro­vide reg­u­la­tory assur­ance that the Food Standard’s Agency hopes will improve stan­dards and reduce admin­is­tra­tive has­sles while enforc­ing action against busi­nesses that don’t comply. 

As part of this process, busi­nesses across the food chain will be required to par­tic­i­pate in an enhanced reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem that will require more detailed infor­ma­tion from them. This will be used to bet­ter seg­ment busi­nesses and the sys­tem will favor those with a his­tory of com­pli­ance – mean­ing they will face less fre­quent and robust inspections. 

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Despite these mea­sures, many lead­ing researchers feel not enough it being done to address how Brexit will impact food safety in the United Kingdom. A recent paper pub­lished by researchers at three lead­ing UK uni­ver­si­ties cites 16 major issues that they believe the gov­ern­ment will face come March 2018 that have the poten­tial to threaten UK food resilience and security.”

The paper, A Food Brexit: time to get real – A Brexit Briefing,” fea­tures input from Tim Lang (a pro­fes­sor of Food Policy at the University of London’s Centre for Food Policy), Erik Millstone (pro­fes­sor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex’s Science Policy Research Unit) and Terry Marsden (pro­fes­sor of Environmental Policy and Planning and Director of Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University’s School of Regional Planning and Geography). 

The paper cau­tions that the UK is cur­rently suf­fer­ing from many issues relat­ing to food, labor, agri­cul­ture and sup­ply that will all be dras­ti­cally impacted by Food Brexit’ and cur­rent mea­sures are not suf­fi­cient to address the upcom­ing impact this will have on all aspects of food safety and security. 

The authors go on to state that there are seri­ous risks that stan­dards of food safety will decline if the UK ceases to adopt EU safety rules, and instead accepts free-trade agree­ments with coun­tries with sig­nif­i­cantly weaker standards.” 

The United Kingdom has already begun nego­ti­at­ing a future trade deal with American sup­pli­ers of poul­try, dairy and meat which many have pointed out do not cur­rently meet the qual­ity stan­dards out­lined by the European Food Safety Authority as they con­tain pes­ti­cides, banned fla­vor­ings and more.



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