LGA: We need access to EU systems after Brexit

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock/LindasPhotography
Picture: iStock/LindasPhotography

Related tags: Food safety, Horse meat scandal

Access to EU databases such as RASFF and TRACES is critical after Brexit, according to the Local Government Association (LGA).

The LGA, which represents 370 councils in England and Wales, called on government and the EU to ensure availability of the Europe wide food safety and animal health systems remain available.

It said failure to protect access to intelligence will weaken councils’ ability to protect public health and increase the risk of a new food scandal.

No alternative to current methods

As a member of the European Union, the UK is part of a framework of rules and systems which ensures traceability of high risk products and access to intelligence about contamination.

LGA said this ensures local regulatory officers at councils have information to target enforcement activity, protect public health and support the economy.

Councils help to protect the public through trading standards, environmental and port health work.

Councillor Kevin Bentley, chairman of the LGA’s Brexit taskforce, said the UK has "painful, recent experience"​ of the damage caused when food and feed are compromised.

After years of funding reductions for trading standards and environmental health, we simply do not have the capacity to increase checks to offset this risk, either at ports or inland, unless this is fully funded. Without additional capacity, there is simply no alternative to continuing to receive and share this type of information.”

West Yorkshire Analytical Services (WYAS) ended its public analyst function in March and Staffordshire Scientific Services also closed earlier this year.

RASFF annual figures

The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) allows national authorities to share information in response to risks in the food or feed chain.

Norway is part of RASFF despite not being an EU member state through its membership in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland is a partial member of the system.

According to the 2016 RASFF report​, pesticide residues and aflatoxins in products from Turkey topped the list of notifications.

Notification for pathogenic microorganisms was the leading hazard category followed by mycotoxins, pesticide residues and heavy metals.

Fruit and vegetables topped notifications by product category, then nuts, nut products and seeds and fish and fish products.

The Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) is the European Commission's online management tool for sanitary requirements on intra-EU trade of animals, food, feed and plants.

LGA said exiting the EU without a deal would leave regulators ‘in limbo’ in March 2019 and under the draft EU-UK withdrawal agreement access to such databases switched off post-2020.

It added previous scandals such as horsemeat damaged public confidence and hit red meat sales in the UK.

Critical period in Brexit negotiations

Meanwhile, more than 100 organisations have signed a manifesto sent to the Prime Minister on objectives the government should pursue as it negotiates Brexit, establishes future relationships with the EU and domestic policies.

The National Farmers’ Union (NFU), Ulster Farmers’ Union, BRC, FDF, British Poultry Council, Federation of Bakers, British Egg Industry Council, British Meat Processors Association and Fresh Produce Consortium are among signatories of the UK Food Supply Chain Manifesto​.

It sets out the need for positive outcomes on trade, labour, regulation and domestic agricultural policy.

NFU president Minette Batters said it is critical different elements of Brexit are considered by all government departments.

“In the manifesto we warn, as a collective, that a Brexit that fails to champion UK food producers, and the businesses that rely on them, will be bad for the country’s landscape, the economy and critically our society,” ​she said.

“Conversely, if we get this right, we can all contribute to making Brexit a success for producers, food businesses and the British public, improving productivity, creating jobs and establishing a more sustainable food supply system.”

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