Where have all the food police gone?

Fresh analysis from Sustain, the food and farming alliance, suggests that Britain’s domestic regulators are hopelessly ill equipped for the extra work load that leaving the EU will entail.

13/03/2018
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EU negotiators have warned that if the UK leaves both the customs union and single market, this will automatically lead to additional border checks on food and animal health. Striking new international trade deals for food will mean we have to provide additional assurances when sending our produce to the EU, and also checks on imports to ensure they meet our standards.

However, domestic regulatory agencies have experienced swingeing cuts to both staff and budgets since 2010. Some agencies have experienced budget cuts of up to 51% and insiders are warning they will not be able to cope with the additional tasks.

Sustain’s analysis has revealed:

Currently, as a member of the EU, Britain's food standards are covered by European regulatory agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority, the European Fisheries Control Agency, European Maritime Safety Agency, European Chemicals Agency and European Environment Agency.

These shared European agencies do things like investigate emerging risks to health in the food chain (such as additives), pollution by ships, and industrial pollution. They also develop and share knowledge in their fields as well as scientific or technical know-how.

However, Sustain’s analysis indicates that far from being ready to assume additional monitoring and regulatory responsibilities from EU agencies when we exit the EU, the UK agencies who keep our food, fish, farms and waterways safe cannot possibly have the staff or resources they need.

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of Sustain, said: “Our food safety is critical and yet it is clear that as a nation we are hopelessly underprepared to exit the customs union and single market. Regulation has been a dirty word of late, condemned as ‘red tape’ that holds the industry back, but when it comes to food safety, we need strong rules and inspections. We all expect the food on our plates to be safe. We need fresh commitments from government to give the people who keep our food safe the proper resources they need.”

Budget

 

Defra

FSA

Environment Agency

Trading Standards

Maritime Management Organisation

Budget 2010/11

£2.9bn

£114.1

(2011/2012)

£846.7m

£213m (2009/10)

£32m

Budget 2016/7

£2.3bn (£1.9bn by 2019)

£84.5m

£744m

£124m

£15.5m

Budget + -

-£600m

-29.6

-102.7m

-£89m

-16.5m

Percentage change

-20%

-26%

-12%

-41.7%

-51.5%

Staff

 

Defra

FSA

Environment
Agency

Trading Standards
(E & W)

MMO

Staff total 2010/11

2516

1943

13, 583

5500

250

Staff total 2016/7

1,839

1,526

11,610

x

299

Staff + -

-677

417

-2008

x

+49

Percentage change

-26.9%

-21.4%

-14.5%

-57% (TSI fig)

+19.6%

This story was covered in The Times and Farmers Guardian

 

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Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming

Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.