The Food Standards Agency (FSA) for the United Kingdom will have to stand on its own after the island nation withdraws from the European Union next year. It means food safety in the UK will be cut off from the EU mothership, better known as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy. Some have said that will weaken food safety in Britain. FSA Chair Heather Hancock agrees there is much work to be done.
“When the UK leaves the EU in March next year, we will continue to protect public health and consumers’ wider interests in relation to food,” Hancock wrote in the agency’s annual report and accounts for 2017-18.
“More than 90 percent of food law in the UK comes from the EU, and our current system is heavily reliant on EU institutions and decisions. It is vital that from day one we have an equivalent regulatory regime in place, a regime which is robust and effective, and led by an effective regulator.”
Hancock says the important thing now is the modernization of Britan’s food safety system.
She also stressed the importance of the FSA’s program to change food regulation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, commenting that the modernization plans will “ensure that local authorities have more information about the food businesses in their area” and that the FSA will for the first time be able to develop a unified view of food business and local authority performance, across the three countries.
Hancock also spelled out the importance of businesses sharing their hygiene and standards data with local authorities.
“We want to channel to local authorities the data that many food businesses generate from independent assurance and accreditation schemes,” she said in the report. “That will mean local authority officers can make more informed judgments about the nature, frequency, and intensity of official controls for that business. The greater the transparency is about ongoing business performance, and the more information and insight into the food industry shares with us, the better we will all protect the public and build confidence in food.”
FSA Chief Executive Jason Feeney pointed to the ongoing success of the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme.
“Other achievements include the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and the continued rise in standards. More than 95 percent of food businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland now have a ‘Generally satisfactory’ rating or higher (3 or above) and 68 percent have a hygiene rating of 5 (very good). We believe mandatory display of FHRS drives up food safety compliance and therefore provides better public health protection.”
He also talks about mandatory closed-circuit television (CCTV) in abattoirs.
“We maintain a ‘zero-tolerance’ approach on animal welfare breaches and agreed with industry on a voluntary protocol to allow Official Veterinarians access to CCTV at slaughterhouses to provide verification of animal welfare standards,” Feeney said. “We welcome new legislation which means by November 2018 all slaughterhouses in England must have CCTV installed to help food business owners safeguard animal welfare.”
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