The UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) is working on changing the way that food is regulated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. That’s because, according to the agency, business innovation is outpacing food laws, which puts consumers at risk. To keep up, FSA is trying something new.
Here is an except from FSA’s official statement released today:
“Safety will always be at the heart of what we decide to do. We are proposing a model that continues to use inspections and visits alongside the information we can gain from business’s data and accredited third party audits to ensure that food safety and authenticity are top of a food business’s mind every day – not just on inspection day.
We’ve started a three month trial to compare the vast amounts of data held by food businesses with the data that local authorities collect from inspections to see if it can be used to provide assurance that they are doing the right things for consumers. This is part of us setting the standard to create a new, more comprehensive and transparent system of business assurance.”
The proposed model, coined “Regulating our Future”, will require a fundamental redesign of the FSA’s regulatory role and of the way in which regulation is delivered for the benefit of consumers.
FSA’s existing inspection model includes sending inspectors to evaluate how food businesses are providing assurance to consumers regarding food standards and hygiene. However, the agency describes this practice as “resource intensive” and believes that other options are worth exploring to maintain confidence that food served in the UK is safe and labeled accurately.
The new model will move away from a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to regulation because food businesses come in many different shapes and sizes. FSA proposes a regulatory framework that can be adapted according to different types of food businesses.
For example, many big businesses have robust auditing and sampling regimes in place to ensure the food they provide to consumers is safe and what it says it is. FSA wants to make the most of this data and use it to inform their approach, rather than overlooking this valuable resource.
FSA is still working out the details for this new regulatory model and how it will specifically work. The agency is welcoming comments, ideas and concerns from local authorities, businesses and consumers. Those with an interest can email FutureDelivery@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk, or join the conversation on Twitter using the designated hashtag #foodregulation. You can also view a one-page overarching view of the future model at Food.gov.uk.