The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has opened a comment period on the approach to converting EU law for food and feed safety into UK law when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union next year.
The agency is seeking the views of businesses, consumers, other stakeholders and the public as to the corrections ministers plan to make.
The UK held a referendum in June 2016 with a majority vote to leave the European Union in March 2019. A process called Brexit.
When the UK leaves the EU, certain directly applicable EU legislation will be converted into UK law. However, retained EU law will not work properly unless something is done to transfer the functions of organizations, such as the European Commission, to UK public bodies.
The UK will take control for authorizations of “novel” foods, food safety incident response, use of irradiation or chemical treatments to minimize dangerous organisms, and genetically modified organisms in food.
Appropriate UK authorities will be able to set safety levels, relating to hygiene or contamination, which foods must comply with and provide approvals.
Risk assessment and management
A replacement is needed for the risk management function currently done by the European Commission and the risk assessment role of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
The EU Commission Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed (SCOPAFF) discusses proposals and the European Parliament and EU Council of Member States also look at planned legislation before it becomes law.
FSA is responsible for risk analysis, including risk assessment and communication. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) will have a similar role in Scotland.
Matters relating to food and feed safety and hygiene are devolved, which allows Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to implement their own laws. But, the UK government is seeking blanket coverage to ensure that law continues to function post EU exit.
A statement from FSA says registered food establishments will have to invest in understanding the new legislation.
“We envisage minimal one-off familiarization costs to business; where we estimate that it will take each business less than 30 minutes to read and understand the proposed regulations and then disseminate the information to key staff within their firm. It is unlikely that the envisaged changes will present any other impact on businesses’ day to day operations as the rules are not changing as a result of these proposals,” according to the FSA statement.
The agency also said there would be no additional burdens on enforcement bodies compared with the current system.
“It is estimated that one officer in each of these authorities, one Food/Feed Officer from each local authority and one Port Health Officer from each PHA, will need to undertake this task,” according to FSA.
Plan for a no-deal scenario
The UK government is also preparing for a potential no deal scenario and recently published a set of 25 technical notices on planning for such an outcome with many more still to be released. Farming and organic food production featured in the first batch.
Food and Drink Federation chief executive, Ian Wright, said a no deal would be a “grisly” prospect for the sector.
“There is no sign of further progress on negotiating frameworks with the devolved administrations. There is no substantive information on mitigating the effect of ‘no deal’ on the island of Ireland, where the implications would be most significant,” Wright said.
“Moreover, the UK food industry will doubt that the government could replace TRACES (the EU Trade Control and Expert System that tracks the entire trade and certification process for animals, food, feed and plants) with a new, comprehensive, functional UK alternative IT system in time for the end of March.”
British Poultry Council chief executive, Richard Griffiths, said food is a special case.
“Government must ensure that British food, and the quality it represents, stays affordable and available for all. If we cannot support our own production, then there will emerge a two-tier food system with the average citizen forced to rely on lower standard imports,” Griffiths said.
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