The Food Standards Agency and Food Standards Scotland have released the first of a series of annual reports on the food system. The inaugural report found that UK food standards had been maintained in 2021 despite the upheaval, however this a “cautious conclusion”.
The report highlighted two main concerns:
- There has been a fall in the level of local authority inspections of food businesses, and the process of improvements is being "constrained" by resource and the availability of qualified professionals.
- Insufficient border controls on food imports from the EU.
The report calls for enhanced levels of assurance on higher-risk EU food like meat, dairy and eggs, and food and feed and says it is essential that these "improved controls" are put in place by the end of 2023 - the timetable set out by the UK Government.
The report says: "The longer the UK operates without assurance from the exporting country that products meet the UK’s high food and feed safety standards the less confident we can be that we can effectively identify potential safety incidents. It is vital that the UK has the ability to prevent entry of unsafe food and identify and respond to changing risks. Although we have considered these challenges carefully and put other arrangements within our control in place, they are not, in our view, sufficient."
Kath Dalmeny, ceo of Sustain said:
"The Food Standards Agency has given our food safety a qualified clean bill of health. While they say food standards have been maintained they concede that the pandemic disrupted inspection, sampling and audits and that this reduced the amount of data they had to work with.
"Furthermore, they are clearly signalling that our regime for checking EU food as it enters our food chain is insufficiently robust. This needs to be fixed urgently. It also raises important questions for how the Government intends to maintain and improve our food standards when new trade deals are negotiated.
"The Trade and Agriculture Commission advised that our concerns about pesticide overuse in Australia represented a clear commercial risk to UK farming, but tried to reassure that produce with high pesticide residues would not enter the UK due to UK border checks. In that context, this report presents a significant challenge to ministers - how do they intend to ensure our food standards are maintained in trade, as per their manifesto commitment."
You can read the full report here
Published 1 Jul 2022
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