Next year attention will focus on how the GCA can deliver fairer food supply chains and stronger industry growth. “We may see the Groceries Supply Code of Practice being enforced more stringently and the future of the food supply chain come under scrutiny,” said Roythornes.
“It will be interesting to see how government, regulators and the food industry can work together to strengthen consumer confidence in the provenance of food products.”
The four other trends that will shape the food law terrain next year were: Food waste; EU ingredients control; Supply chains, provenance and labelling and Zero hours contract/living wage.
Food waste will continue to dominate headlines, as concern mounts about the UK’s food waste mountain. “There will be significant legislative attempts to reduce worrying national food waste rates, after reports confirmed we threw away 4.2Mt of food and drink last year – worth £12.5bn according to [the government funded] Waste & Resources Action Programme.”
Bans on sending food waste to landfill have already been suggested. But there is likely to be more “robust proposals”, and an approach that supports innovative techniques which lengthen shelf-life, predicted the law firm.
EU ingredients control was an increasing global concern, it added. The US Food and Drug Administration is in the process of eliminating the use of trans-fats in the US food supply chain. “This is likely to cross the Atlantic as health becomes more and more important.”
The EU commission recently asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to assess the health implications of phosphate additives. The European food safety watchdog plans to collect data from the industry phosphate levels in food, in a bid to understand whether they pose any risk.
Make it mandatory
Supply chains, provenance and labelling will also take centre stage, following the Europe-wide horsemeat crisis earlier this year. The supply chain and provenance challenges highlighted by the horsemeat crisis “won’t be going away any time soon”, said Roythornes. The full legislative response had yet to take full effect.
Evidence to support this trend was the European Commission’s (EC’s) recent proposal to make it mandatory for ready meal manufacturers to list the origin of meat used in the product on its packaging. The EC had decided to delay the adoption of the report until a later date. But its supporters stepped up their lobbying. “French authorities are particularly committed, and will raise the issue at a meeting of the Agriculture Council scheduled in December,” it predicted.
“It is clear that meat provenance will continue to dominate many agendas, and ready meal labelling is one area where the EU will focus its attention in 2014.”
The zero hours contract/living wage trend was heralded by the Gangmasters Licensing Authority (GLA) “baring its teeth this year”, said the law firm. It noted the decision to suspend licences and investigate fraudulent gangmasters resulting in arrests.
But human trafficking and exploitation is “still endemic in the food processing and agricultural sectors”, claimed Roythornes.
“To help curb systematic abuses, the food manufacturing industry will face demands to scrap zero hour contracts and honour the living wage in 2014,” it predicted.
Five top food law themes
- Groceries Code Adjudicator
- Food waste
- EU ingredients control
- Supply chains, provenance and labelling
- Zero hours contract/living wage