WLGA slams proposed FSA food safety reform

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

FSA said the pilots will report in January next year
FSA said the pilots will report in January next year

Related tags: Regulation, Uk food standards agency

Plans by the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to reform food safety regulation have been slammed by councils in Wales.

The agency said sending local authority inspectors to see how businesses are providing food standards and hygiene assurance to consumers was ‘resource intensive’.

It said a move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to regulation was the intention.

‘Appalled and disturbed’

Councillor Neil Moore (Vale of Glamorgan), Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) spokesperson for regulatory services, said it was ‘appalled and disturbed’ to hear of the intention to hand over the regulation of food to those who produce it.

“How can this be right or safe? In recent years we witnessed the horsemeat scandal where certain unscrupulous businesses put profits before quality and honest descriptions,” ​he said.

“The mistrust of consumers as a result of recent food fraud on a national scale has not gone away. How can we therefore have a system which relies on food businesses regulating themselves?

“In Wales we remain in the shadow of an E. coli outbreak which tragically resulted in a death.”

Moore said the proposals were ‘at best a gamble’.

“In a global supply chain the food industry lobbies vigorously for a "light touch" regulatory system. We recognise that testing, tracking and tracing ingredients comes at a cost. But not testing them will cost society more,” ​he said.

“There can be no justification to dilute our independent enforcement regime to the point where food businesses regulate themselves and the statutory agencies such as environmental health are held off at arm’s length.”

FSA said the three month pilots with Mitchells & Butlers and Tesco are about comparing data held by food businesses with that which local authorities collect from inspections.

The agency added it wants to see if the data businesses have can be used to provide assurance that they are doing the right things for consumers.

It stressed they are pilots, due to report in January, and nothing has been decided.

Three workshops have been held to date to identify ‘pain points’ or challenges in the current regulatory system.

Current way is most trusted

WLGA said it believed the current inspection and regulation of a food business by independent Environmental Health and Trading Standards professionals remains the most trusted method for tasks such as inspecting kitchens for filthy and unhygienic preparation conditions.

“The WLGA calls for the FSA to immediately abandon their plans to deregulate food safety, replacing it with self-regulation by the food businesses themselves. This is merely bending to the wishes of the self-same food businesses who wish to keep regulators away.

“We strongly contend that the public do not deserve a weakened and diminished investigatory regime, but instead would expect an improved system of assurance in food, based upon the independence and professionalism of Environmental Health and Trading Standards Officers.”

The association said in its experience said the vast majority of responsible businesses strive for the highest standards but some can make mistakes, while others cut corners. 

It added FSA proposals could undermine progress to date and it was looking at Scotland’s approach as a possible model.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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