Reg-busting measures could boost UK food safety - FSA

By Rory Harrington

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Fsa European union Food standards agency

A new regulation-busting scheme in the UK should raise food safety standards but would result in “significant fines” from Brussels if it delays the introduction of EC safety laws, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has cautioned.

The food safety body has called on its board to back the One-In, One-Out (OIOO) programme tabled by the new Government but admitted that the cost of doing so would force the FSA to cut back on other initiatives.

One-In, One-Out

Under the OIOO plan, launched at the start of this month, government departments in England are prohibited from introducing new regulations that impose a burden on business without findings at least equivalent savings. Regulatory measures include legislation and Approved Codes of Practices with legal force – but not guidance or voluntary initiatives.

The programme will cover UK legislation only until October 2011, with EU law included after that date. Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are not yet affected by the measure.

The report, by the agency’s Andrew Wadge, examines the issue and recommends that the agency sign up to the scheme. Failure to do so would “result in serious reputational risk to the FSA”, ​he said. The measure is due to be considered by the FSA board next week.

EU law challenges

The report acknowledges that the “vast majority” ​of food law comes from the EU and therefore OIOO will “present a particular challenge for the FSA”​ after October 2011. However, savings made as a result of a reduction in European regulation before that date will be counted and may help departments amass a burdens credit – which could soften the impact of the initiative.

The paper said that in order to limit the effect of EU law, the UK will have to be effective in making its views heard to challenge “burdensome approaches"​ and secure reasonable transition periods for EU legislation. It spells out the potential consequences of failing or delaying implementation of EU regulations.

“Once European legislation is adopted, if the UK fails to implement fully and on time we would be open to infraction proceedings from the European Commission​,” said the report.

It added: “These can result in very significant fines, which the FSA would be liable to pay. Non-implementation would therefore present a very significant risk and makes it doubly important that we both negotiate to minimize burdens and ensure that we continue to find savings in order to create headspace to allow for new measures.”

The FSA is urged to join the scheme despite being unclear at present where it could make the required savings in the event of introducing new regulations. However, it adds that the agency hopes to build up a burden credit cushion before the end of 2011 and will work closely with industry.

But making the initiative work will “require significant resource input”.​ While this can be managed within existing funding the FSA said “there will be some impact on delivery of other initiatives”.


Despite the challenges, the report suggests that the scheme should be of benefit to consumers, businesses and authorities.

“Consumers should benefit as regulations that are simpler and easier to comply with should raise standards and hence levels of protection,”​ said Wadge. “Businesses and enforcement authorities will also benefit from simplified regulatory regimes.”

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