As much as you are probably tired of hearing about Brexit following over two years of discussions and news reports, the topic is not going to be over any time soon – in fact, it’s only really starting now.
With the UK voting to leave the European Union back in 2016, the effects will soon be felt across many areas of UK law including food safety.
As so much of the regulation relating to food is founded on EU law, the Food Standards Agency is one of the departments with the highest proportion of legislation originating from the EU.
Though we don’t yet know exactly what this will mean for food safety laws in the UK, or what changes this will bring, you can make sure that you are compliant and informed as soon as anything happens. By outsourcing the support of a health and safety consultant with experience and expertise in food safety, you can rest assured that you will be notified as and when food safety legislation changes, and you will be fully supported in ensuring that your organisation is compliant with these changes.
What is the current UK legislation on food safety?
Food safety is a general term for the food industry that refers to things like hygiene, allergies and inspections, and if you/your business handles food in any capacity (whether you cook, serve, store, deliver etc.) then you must be aware of, and compliant with, food safety laws.
The Food Safety Act 1990 is one such law that provides a framework for all food legislation in the UK and it states that food intended for human consumption must be treated in a controlled and managed way.
Some of your responsibilities under this law include:
- Making sure food is safe to eat
- Not adding, removing or treating food in a way that will make it harmful
- Delivering food at the quality that you say it is
- Making sure not to mislead people by the way the food is labelled, advertised or marketed
- Keeping records of where you got food from
- Withdrawing unsafe food and completing an incident report
- Displaying your food hygiene rating (not mandatory in England)
What changes will we see to food safety after Brexit?
Our food systems here in the UK are heavily reliant on the EU so we do know that there will be some changes following Brexit, it just all depends on what type of deal we strike up.
A no deal withdrawal could adversely affect public health, consumer protection, animal welfare and environmental sustainability, as other countries begin to produce food for the UK to replace imports from the EU. One said country would be the United States.
This could mean:
- US chicken, which has been banned in the EU since 1997 due to their chlorine washing process, could make its way to UK consumers. The levels of chlorine used are not toxic, but they do paint a scary picture.
US processing plants rely solely on it because their other hygiene standards are so poor; whereas, the EU ensures that food manufactures focus on overall hygiene rather than a single chemical decontamination step.
- Another worrying feature of US food production are their pesticides. Their levels of pesticide are substantially higher than the UK and the EU so we would be consuming far more of its residue.
- We would also see the levels of food additives increase as US food contains a wider range, and at higher levels, than what the EU permits.
- US food labelling standards provide consumers with far less information than what we are used to seeing thanks to the EU standards.
Clearly, if a US-UK trade deal gets agreed then this will have massive repercussions on our food safety and see a decline in UK food safety standards.
This doesn’t mean we should start relaxing our food safety laws and standards as a whole BUT it is important that you are aware of any potential impact this might have on food safety at work.
How to make sure you are always compliant with food safety laws
As mentioned previously, we cannot yet know the full impact that Brexit will have on UK legislation, especially food safety laws, until we know what kind of deal we have settled on.
For the time being, the most important thing you can do is make sure that you understand your current responsibilities and that you are fulfilling them.
One way of doing so is to create a food safety checklist and conduct an audit of your workplace, checking off the things you are compliant with and working on the areas that you are not.
Also, stay regularly informed and updated as and when things change so that you do not get left behind and can put a plan of action in place well in advance of any drastic changes.
If you require further support with food safety then we can provide you with a fully qualified Health and Safety Consultant who can assist with food safety management, audits, training and advice
Call us today on 0845 2626 260 for more information and a complimentary quote for this service