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The risks to supply and safety of food

September 29, 2018 9:09 PM

CIEH logoA new report lays bare the chaos set to envelop the UK's food systems in the event of a "no deal" when Britain leaves the European Union next May. It comes from a partnership the Universities of City, Sussex, and Cardiff and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, the voice for environmental and public health professionals across the country, representing more than 8,000 members working in the public, private and non-profit sectors.

It highlights the significant risks to food flows into the UK, concluding that

· Failure to keep food central to Brexit negotiations could have a catastrophic impact on our food security, and on those whose jobs rely on the food industry.

· UK food resilience is fragile and dependent on just-in-time delivery systems that could quickly grind to a halt if border controls were re-imposed.

· The Government seems ambiguous at best on the question of migrant workers and how essential they are to the current working of the UK food system.

· The UK's current approach is imbalanced, with the specific needs of Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, whose economies are highly food-dependent, being repeatedly side lined.

The report also shines a light on the Government's contingency plans to suspend the UK's food regulations and standards to maintain food imports in the event of a "no deal".

Although the report welcomes the Chequers agreement as a step forward, it outlines the Government's fundamental mistake in aiming for alignment only for farming and manufacturing, but not for retail or food service. This stance injects a fault-line into the UK food system between production and service sectors, and puts thousands of jobs at risk, with food services being by far the largest source of employment in the entire UK food chain.

Feeding Britain also argues that an additional, unnecessary risk is being created by the Food Standards Agency's decision to press ahead with major reform of UK food safety regulation, at a time when a stable regulatory regime should be in place as the basis of trade and Brexit negotiations. The paper provides a detailed analysis of the significance of the Regulating Our Future (ROF) reforms being undertaken by the Food Standards Agency.

The report makes 15 key recommendations to Government, industry, academics, and civil society, including:

  • The Government should initiate a Sustainable Food Security Strategy as an immediate priority.

  • The Government should publish thorough Brexit impact studies on the UK's agricultural and food system, and ensure that high food standards remain at the heart of any future trade deals.

  • There must be a firm commitment to avoiding a "no deal" Brexit that would undermine Britain's food security.

  • The Government should recasting the proposed Agriculture Bill as a Sustainable Food Bill to provide a new legislative framework for the food system as a whole.

  • The Food Standards Agency (FSA) must rethink the Regulating Our Future programme, unless it is able to provide clarification to the points raised in the report, or it should suspend ROF introduction until after Brexit.

  • The Department of Health and Social Care should take more of an active oversight role over the FSA, which should not be transferred to the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs, to maintain the FSA's independence from vested interests.

You can read the full report here : http://foodresearch.org.uk/publications/feeding-britain-food-security-after-brexit/