The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published plans to update food regulations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The plans are outlined in a document entitled, “Regulating Our Future: Why food regulation needs to change and how we are going to do it”. The plan includes a number of proposals that are aimed at transforming the way food businesses are regulated in parts of Europe.
According to Heather Hancock, chairman of the FSA, “The case for changing the food regulation system is strong. We need to reform the way we regulate to keep up the pace of change in the global food economy: in what we eat, where we consume it, how it reaches us. We need a modern, flexible and responsive regulatory system. It is important that we act now, rather than wait for the system to falter, risking damaging consequences for public health and for trust in food. These reform plans are given extra momentum as the UK leaves the EU, a step that will adjust patterns of food production, trade and consumption.
“This plan is the result of 18 months' debate and discussion with all the stakeholders in this area: businesses big and small, local authorities, third party assurers and consumers. We have developed the blueprint through open policy making, maintaining our principles of openness and transparency to give the public confidence in food safety and standards.
"At the heart of our plans is an enhanced system of registration for all food businesses, on the basis of which we will apply proportionate, risk-based controls. We want the outcomes from these changes to be a more robust, sustainable regulatory regime, one that sees standards improve in risky businesses, reduces the administrative burden for businesses that demonstrate they are compliant with food law, and sees effective enforcement action against food businesses that fail to fulfil their obligations.
“The new regulatory approach means big changes for the FSA, including strengthening our oversight of all the bodies involved in inspecting and assuring food businesses. We want to improve relationships with industry, bring a more commercially astute understanding onto our regulatory decisions, and above all ensure that the stringent and robust standards we set help food businesses fulfil their responsibility to produce food that is safe and what it says it is.”
What proposed changes does FSA have in store? Among the plans include the following:
- The paper details the changes the FSA wants to make to build a modern, risk-based, proportionate, robust and resilient system. Chief among these are:
- An enhanced system of registration for businesses, which will mean securing better information on all businesses so that we can better identify and manage risk across the food chain. Knowing more about a food business will enable us to make better judgments about regulating it. We want to create a hostile environment for those businesses that don’t proactively register.
- Segmenting businesses in a better way using a range of risk indicators based on wider information about the business, including the information gathered at the point of registration and from other sources.
- We want to be confident that businesses are doing the right thing and we will introduce more options for how they prove it. Depending on how robust the information that businesses share is, including their past performance, we will set the frequency and type of inspection activity they face. This means businesses with a good history of compliance will face a lower burden from regulation, and free up local authority resources to target the businesses that present the greatest risk to public health.
- We remain committed to our very successful and trusted Food Hygiene Rating Scheme. We will continue to ensure the scheme is sustainable and display becomes mandatory in England as it is in Wales and Northern Ireland.