A House of Lords sub-committee in the United Kingdom has called for clarity on post-Brexit food safety decisions.
The EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee wrote to Steve Brine, the minister responsible for the Food Standards Agency, following an inquiry in July.
It invited answers to whether the government supports a model by the FSA for making decisions post-Brexit and when the agency would get the required legal powers as well as if the UK would be ready to take on responsibility for food safety risk management decision-making in March 2019, if there is no transition period.
Under the FSA model, an advisory committee would be created and risk management decisions would be taken by the agency based on the committee’s advice. The FSA would perform a risk assessment role like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) does now.
Food safety regulation in the UK is currently almost entirely from the EU. The EFSA does risk assessments. The European Commission then proposes legislation to manage the risks identified. When the UK leaves the EU, it will no longer automatically be part of this system.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and FoodDrinkEurope have previously stressed the importance of the UK’s relationship with EFSA.
Members of the House of Lords are not voted for by the public. They debate new laws proposed by Members of Parliament (MPs) and make suggested changes. Members in the House of Commons are elected and it is the main place for law making.
In the letter, Lord Teverson, chairman of the committee, asked about the implications of the UK leaving the EU’s food safety risk management arrangements.
European Commission legislative proposals are discussed by the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed – a group made up of national experts from EU governments.
Lord Teverson asked for confirmation that when the UK leaves the EU it will no longer be a member of this committee or automatically follow EU risk management decisions and clarity on the situation during any transition period.
He also raised the point of ministerial responsibility as many issues covered by this committee come under the remit of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).
The inquiry in July took evidence from Sue Davies, of consumer group Which?; Heather Hancock, chair of the FSA; Professor Erik Millstone from the University of Sussex; Helen Munday, at the FDF and Tim Smith, former chief executive of the FSA.
The committee heard about the importance in the EU of networks such as the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) and Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES).
The Local Government Association, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, previously called on government and the EU to ensure access to EU-wide food safety systems remains available in England after Brexit.
In June 2016, UK voters decided to leave the EU in a referendum marked by a “yes” vote of 51.9 percent with a turnout of 72.2 percent.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)