Ross Warburton said at the FDF’s annual dinner last night that there should be a moratorium on further regulation and quasi-regulation for the food industry, as part of a commitment by the Government to make food production a genuine strategic priority.
However he stressed that the moratorium should not apply to food safety.
Warburton said: “I am not talking here about measures related to food safety. Protecting consumers is our top priority and we will always work closely with regulators to ensure people can have trust in the food they are buying.
“But we are worried about the myriad of other legislative burdens, non-evidence-based interventions, excessive social regulation, regulatory creep as well as quasi-regulation dressed up as if it had legal power, which all impacts the way our members do business and ultimately undermines the UK’s attractiveness as a place in which to invest in manufacturing.”
The FDF represents the food and drink manufacturing industry, which is the UK’s largest manufacturing sector.
Regulation is important because it protects workers, consumers and the environment, but the FDF said that too much inappropriate regulation imposes unnecessary costs and administrative burdens on companies and risks making the industry uncompetitive.
And Warburton believes the industry should be given the same level of priority as the motor sector enjoys.
He said: “The UK food and drink industry is a high value manufacturing sector offering world class capabilities in the areas of production, logistics, sales, marketing and innovation.
“Compared with, say, the motor industry, our sector is twice as important to the UK economy on virtually every metric. And, of course, we don’t ask for state handouts when things get tough.
“Food production is not only a vital part of the UK economy, it has a key strategic role to play in ensuring the nation’s food security against the combined effects of climate change, higher global demand and increasing pressure on finite resources.”
The Government has already pledged to cut the red tape that companies face by 25 per cent by 2010, while the European Commission has promised to reduce the costs of its administrative burdens on business by the same amount by 2012.
The Government also set up a forum called The Food Industry Better Regulation Group (FIBR) for discussing regulatory issues affecting the food and drink supply chain.
It met for the first time in July 2006, with the aim adding value to policy and legislative proposals, whether arising from the UK, the EU or internationally.