Food & Drinks

Call for evidence on food safety framework

A House of Commons committee in the United Kingdom has called for evidence after the publication of a common framework for food safety.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee request for written submissions is open until Dec. 11.

The House of Lords Common Frameworks Scrutiny Committee has already been in contact with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on the topic and how the framework will work alongside the Internal Market Bill.

The Common Framework for Food and Feed Safety and Hygiene (FFSH) was published at the end of November and sets new processes for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to adhere to after the transition period ends on Dec. 31 and the UK leaves the European Union.

It is designed to ensure a harmonized approach across the United Kingdom on food and feed safety and hygiene. However, circumstances in Northern Ireland will be different because of the Northern Ireland Protocol, which means goods sold in the country will continue to follow EU rules for food labelling, composition and standards.

The proposed framework outlines how food safety authorities in these countries should assess and manage risk and handle divergence in food and feed standards, official controls and imports. It was developed with the FSA and Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

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The framework covers policy development including risk assessment and risk management, managing UK pre-market approval, handling divergence and dispute avoidance and resolution. Initial meetings will be quarterly in the year following the implementation.

Consultation questions
The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee wants to know if the framework will be enough to protect public health and wider consumer interests in food across England and the UK and if the government consulted with the right stakeholders across the four nations of the UK during its development.

Under the European Union rules different decisions could be taken by individual administrations across the UK. One example is raw drinking milk: it is an offense to place raw milk or cream on the market for direct consumption in Scotland, but not in the rest of the UK.

Where EU legislation is outcome focused, variations can exist in the means through which agencies achieve the same goal, for example there are differences in hygiene guidelines for cooking burgers.

Stakeholder engagement by the FSA on proposals in October involved the British Veterinary Association (BVA), Food and Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium, Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and others.

The BVA welcomed the commitment that risk assessments will be undertaken on a UK wide basis, taking into account data and consumer interests from all nations. It stressed the significance of the framework to exports and safeguarding the UK’s reputation for animal health and welfare and the safety of food and feed produced domestically.

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The fact enforcement falls outside the scope of the framework may prove concerning for export partners, added the association.

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