Weakening UK food law enforcement: a risky tactic in Brexit – Food Brexit Briefings

Weakening UK food law enforcement: a risky tactic in Brexit

by Erik Millstone & Tim Lang

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is beginning to roll out a far-reaching programme of regulatory change called Regulating Our Future (ROF).  This Briefing Paper argues that ROF risks:

  • Making the UK’s food supply less safe by further weakening systems that are already too weak;
  • Undermining the ability of UK food producers to export to the EU after Brexit;
  • Creating irreconcilable conflicts of interests, because rather than having public officials inspect food businesses, the food businesses will be able to choose who ‘marks their homework’.

Professors Erik Millstone (University of Sussex) and Tim Lang (City, University of London) provide a detailed and powerful critique of the Food Standards Agency’s proposals. They conclude that ROF represents a fundamental and detrimental shift in the role, approach and public responsibilities of the FSA and the local authority officers who are the bedrock of food safety in the UK. They also show why these unwelcome proposals are especially unwise in the context of negotiations over Brexit, when the public needs a strong, vigilant and effective FSA.

The authors call for ROF to be halted pending further review by a special Parliamentary Joint Select Committee of the Health and Environment, Food & Rural Affairs Committees.

News & Updates

Regulating Our Future: the way forward or a blind alley? | 1 May 2018

Since the Food Research Collaboration published the report  Weakening UK food law enforcement: a risky tactic in Brexit, in early March, it has attracted a lot of comment – including from the Food Standards Agency. Here Professors Millstone and Lang respond to the Agency’s criticism, which, they say, fails to engage with the central arguments of the report.

Explore FRC Publications

5 Comments

  1. Pauline Allon says:

    I am very concerned about the future of our food quality after we leave Europe . As the government touts around for trade deals our standards of food quality will be reduced and diminished to blend in with countries like America. This fear is now increased with the introduction of ROF’s to be introduced. People who voted to leave Europe did not vote for reduced standards in food .

  2. Gary gilmore Smith says:

    What do you expect? I reckon the Grenfell enquiry will conclude that now that we have had these deaths we are aware of the problems and they won’t happen again…..you balance safety against the mean spirited, cheap nation we have become. We need to educate the many….the few just think “I’m alright!”

  3. Katie Bardes says:

    Can I do anything proactively to raise this issue? (Do you have basic text I can send to my lobby my local MP/ or petitions that can be circulated to force this into debate?. Your recommendations sound really valuable.

  4. Andy Wilson says:

    As a Trading Standards Officer of 35 years I see this as a statement of the obvious (and have since the introduction of ROF, and have said “the obvious” many times in a variety of forums, including the consultations! To describe the FSA as “unwilling to listen” would be an understatement! Hopefully some attention will be paid to the “disinterested academics” rather than those like myself who are clearly just trying to build our roles (actually ROF could be the key to a well paid early retirement with redundancy compensation, but who is counting – yes it is wrong in principle and dangerous in potential outcome!

  5. Peter Baverstock says:

    I will resist the obvious comment other than to say well done! You have produced a well reasoned document identifying what most EHO’s involved with food are thinking.
    Having said that the FSA seem to be avoiding the key issue of why improvement/change is needed. One of the main problems is the ability of anyone whatever their background,experience or training, to open a food business, almost invariably without recourse to or knowledge of the Local Authority. Most other pursuits, where there is a real risk of hurting or even killing someone, are stricktly controlled to a certain degree depending on perceived or actual risk. Not so with food (not in practice anyway!).
    Hopefully this ill thought out proposal from the FSA will be a wake up call and catalyst to better things. My experience over the last 50 years as a qualified (and still practising EHP) is that it is most unlikely until a spate of serious illness or deaths focus the political mind. Even then I’m not hopefull that politicians and the FSA will resist pressures from big business. The track record in this respect is not good.
    Some Member States of the EU (and some outside the EU too), require prospective food traders to be trained and have medical checks before gaining their licence to trade – well done them!
    It’s about time the UK grasped the nettle and lead the way for once. Stop pussyfooting around the ‘registration’ issue. We have had a good reputation in the past for adhering to ‘the rules’ however badly framed. What we now need is ‘rules’ that reflect the reality of the situation and that can be applied effectively.

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