Trade Talk with Clare Cheney: Mixed prospects for the year ahead

By Clare Cheney

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food standards agency Government Nutrition Eu

As we enter 2011 it seems appropriate to anticipate what we can expect in the year ahead.

We are still waiting for a coherent diet and health strategy now under the auspices of the Department of Health, which is taking longer than expected to elaborate detailed proposals that some expected to have been in the Public Health White Paper published in November 2010.

Expectations are high that the new government will come up with something better than the old one, bearing in mind that, when in opposition, the Tories were highly critical of the Food Standards Agency's strategy. The coming months should reveal more, including a paper on obesity in the spring.

On the reduction of the regulatory burden, so far government has done more towards increasing, rather than reducing it. Two areas that spring to mind are attempts to make country of origin labelling, (CoOL), compulsory and the threat of a muddle following the division of responsibilities for food labelling between several government bodies.

Ironically the EU, usually blamed for new burdens, seems to be adopting a more practicable solution than our government in relation to CoOL. Moreover, the political agreement in Brussels on the Food Information Regulations has dropped the proposal that compulsory nutrition labelling must be situated on the front of packs. We'll have to see if this will stick.

In furtherance of government policy to reduce red tape, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs' (DEFRA's) Task Force on Farming Regulation will publish a report during 2011 with recommendations for reducing the burden for farmers.

The Council of Food Policy Advisors set up by the last government in January 2009 seems to have faded into the sunset with nothing to mark its passing., which few will lament.

On the EU front, key areas, apart from those already mentioned, include a proposal for a nutrient profiling model which failed to materialise as expected during 2010.

Also, the European Food Safety Authority is due to finalise the evaluation of health claims by the end of June 2011, after which DEFRA will draft necessary implementing legislation. Will DEFRA abolish another regulation under the government's 'one-in, one-out' policy?

Overall, we wait to experience life after the cuts in government resources. One thing is clear and that is the government wants industry to shoulder more of the burden. The shape of that is yet to come and may provide food for controversy in certain quarters.

Clare Cheney is director general of the Provision Trade Federation​.

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