Effectively introducing a new model for food standards regulation, the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the revised Food Law Code of Practice for England and Northern Ireland. The new model will be rolled out in phases, beginning summer 2023.

The changes are intended to help local authorities take a more risk-based and intelligence-driven approach to inspection, focusing their time and resources on food businesses that pose the greatest public health concern to consumers.

The new model will drive more frequent checks on non-compliant businesses, while reducing the checks on businesses that can demonstrate good levels of sustained compliance. Local authorities will gain greater flexibility to check compliance in different ways, such as through remote checks where appropriate.

The new approach will also increase the use of critical thinking to inform understanding of risk in the food chain, helping to ensure that action is taken at the right stage of the supply chain. For example, one intervention could be executed at the single point of manufacture or import rather than multiple interventions at a range of retail outlets.

The updated Food Law Code of Practice a successful pilot with seven local authorities in England and Northern Ireland in 2022. The pilot indicated that the new model is more effective at directing officers to businesses where they are more likely to find non-compliance.

Enabling regulators to prioritize their efforts helps address the decline in local authority resources for food standards work. According to FSA, the number of staff working on food standards in local authorities has decreased by approximately half over the last decade.

FSA assured that it will be providing guidance and training on the use and implementation of the new model as part of the implementation process, set to begin during summer 2023.

The revised code was published following a 12-week consultation that ended in January 2023, responses to which have been published on food.gov.uk. A pilot of the proposed food standards model with local authorities in Wales is due to commence in the near future, which will inform a consultation on any amendments required to the Food Law Code of Practice in Wales.