Sustainability policy to affect UK food law, says regulator

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Fsa, Food standards agency

The environmental, social and economic impacts of new regulation
will formally be taken into account under a new sustainability
policy proposed by the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The proposal will be discussed at the 15 March FSA board meeting and would require formal studies to determine the impact on industry, the environment and the consumer of any new rules or policies made by the FSA. In a review paper to be presented at the board meeting in Edinburgh, the FSA concludes that sustainability assessments are a useful tool for examining various options presented to decision makers. The review of how current sustainability assessments are working in practice and how they are affecting policies was made at the request of the board. The studies have allowed policy makers to consider a wider range of impacts than they would have previously, the FSA stated in the review. "In some cases this effect results in a different decision, in others the effect is to ensure that the decision is more broadly based and more fully justified,"​ the FSA stated. Assessments are most likely to result in different decisions where there are significant negative impacts in areas, such as the environment or wider social issues, which have not previously formed part of the assessment and decision making process, the document stated. So far the FSA has developed a guidance to staff on how to undertake sustainability assessments. "The Food Standards Agency's remit is to protect the interests of consumers in relation to food, both now and in the future,"​ the paper stated. " In doing so the agency will take sustainable development into account in all of its activities and policy decisions."​ The review also looks at the challenges that the FSA's executive will be considering over the next few months in order to flesh out what sustainability means for the agency. Such a policy would then be formally incorporated into the FSA's policies and policymaking process. "Consumers, both now and in the future, should benefit from more policies which further the Agency's remit in relation to consumer protection, whilst minimising the risk of unforeseen effects in other areas such as the environment, economy or wider society,"​ the FSA concludes. The review considered 31 sustainability assessments that were received by the agency covering a range of activities from how the FSA is run to policy development. "It is worth noting that some decisions were believed to be no different to what would have previously been the case without sustainability assessments and the reasons for this were examined further,"​ the FSA stated. The review found that a common reason for the sustainability assessment not resulting in a different decision was in cases when all of the impacts identified in the assessment were those that would have also been identified under previous assessment and decision making processes. Such examples included the formation of policies such as those setting target nutrient levels for manufactured products in school meals, the voluntary guidance on providing allergen information on foods. The guidance on recycling food contact plastics and on the enforcement of food hygiene legislation on farms also fell into this category.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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