Members of a parliamentary committee have written to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) about the future of food safety rules in the United Kingdom after leaving the European Union.

The Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee asked the FSA’s chief executive, Emily Miles, about the Food and Feed Safety and Hygiene (FFSH) framework, which will create a joint risk analysis process across the UK.

The Lords Select Committee was created to scrutinize and consider matters relating to these frameworks or UK-wide approaches. It is one of two committees that will be looking at the FFSH framework in the UK Parliament.

The FSA submitted a summary of the Common Framework for Food and Feed Safety and Hygiene to the committee. As part of the process, they posed a number of questions and asked for a response from the agency within 10 working days. The committee decides whether or not to publish any information received.

Regulatory consistency
The UK’s food and feed safety and hygiene policy is regulated by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Commission, but this will stop following the end of the transition period on Dec. 31, 2020, due to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, also known as Brexit.

EU regulations define the general principles and requirements of food safety and hygiene; food law enforcement official controls; food safety labelling; risk analysis; and incident handling. They set out a framework to develop food and feed legislation and lay down general principles, requirements and procedures that underpin decision making for food and feed safety, covering all stages of production and distribution.

Common Frameworks are a way for the UK and devolved governments to agree regulatory consistency for policy areas where returning EU powers have been devolved to Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish governments.

The FFSH Common Framework is listed as a legislative framework meaning it may require primary legislation.

RASFF and sufficient input?
In the letter sent this past week, committee members ask how the framework will work with the Internal Market Bill, what role Northern Ireland will play and whether primary legislation will be required, and how parliamentary scrutiny will work.

The situation around the European Commission-operated Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) is also still unclear.

Baroness Kay Andrews, chair of the Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee and a Labour peer, asked if the UK is still hoping to negotiate full access to RASFF and, if so, how it would feed into the risk analysis process outlined in the framework.

A summary seen by the committee did not provide details on any stakeholder engagement done to prepare it.

Andrews asked which external stakeholders the FSA had consulted. She also questioned the agency on what steps had been taken to ensure it had received the views of relevant stakeholders from across the UK.

Ongoing talks
The EU and UK held a two-day summit at the end of this past week on post-Brexit trade talks. European trade unions in the agri food sector had previously urged negotiators to agree on a free trade agreement.

EFFAT- IUF Europe, SIPTU, Unite, USDAW, BFAWU and GMB warned that if the UK moves to trading on World Trade Organization terms after 2020, agro-food goods would attract the highest level of tariffs with consequences on trade levels and jobs.

Earlier in the week the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) heard from academic, non-governmental organizations and industry experts about possible divergences between EU and UK standards in areas including public health and food safety to consider policy measures that might be adopted to combat adverse effects.

Speakers included Pamela Byrne, CEO of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, and Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

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