Government has ‘watered down’ food standards protections, says FBSC
A new report published today by the Future British Standards Coalition (FBSC) warns the Government has already watered down protections, scrutiny and accountability around food standards.
The FBSC, which was set up to explore ways to protect standards after concerns were raised about the weakness of the Trade and Agriculture Commission established by Ministers, said rules governing antibiotic and hormone use, as well as use of antimicrobial washes, GMOs and food additives had been moved from primary to secondary legislation, making them easier for the Government to change.
According to the report, Safeguarding Standards, references to several hundred medicines, including antibiotics which are restricted or banned from use in food producing animals, have been ‘removed from the UK statute book’.
The coalition also claims Ministers will now be able to alter the ban on chlorinated chicken without a vote in Parliament, contrary to Government promises.
“The coalition is concerned by evidence that the Government has already watered down certain protections, and given itself more freedom and flexibility to change the rules,” the report reads.
“Ministers now have a lot more power to alter food standards – and without democratic accountability.
“With a reduction in scrutiny over trade deals, the executive has consolidated control across the piece – from trade regulations to domestic food standards.”
The report goes on to raise concerns that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) may struggle to carry out its duties to consider ‘consumer habits, perceptions and preferences, which may include animal welfare and environmental concerns’ when assessing new products.
In July this year, Emily Miles, the FSA’s chief executive, said the body’s capacity had been boosted by Brexit Treasury funding over the past two years, with risk analysis staff doubling from 25 to 50 and more than 90 new scientists sitting on evidence committees.
But the FBSC said there was still uncertainty around how well the FSA might carry out assessments, with no great emphasis expected on production methods.
The coalition has made five recommendations to Government to ensure standards are protected.
- A commitment in legislation to ban low-standard imports
- Appoint environmental, animal welfare, consumer and public health representatives to the TAC
- Champion and defend high standards at the World Trade Organisation
- Develop new and publicly available terms of reference for the FSA and all other relevant regulators and enforcement bodies, clarifying how they will be resourced and what influence they have over trade
- Acknowledge tariff measures are not an effective replacement for existing bans or restrictions, but if used, ensure they drive up import standards
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