“This is absolutely Brexit proof,” Heather Hancock, chair of the Food Standards Agency board, told Food Manufacture last month.
“We started it before Brexit and it will conclude just after the UK’s left the EU. And, if anything, it’s given more momentum to the need for us to be absolutely confident about the way in which the regulation and assurance system works.”
The relationship between the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the FSA would continue in some form after Brexit, Hancock asserted.
Continue to enforced after Brexit
Other regulations, which currently have EFSA oversight – such as the approval of novel foods, whose authorisation process is being amended on January 1 2018 – would also continue to enforced after Brexit, she added.
“There needs to be an inspection regime; there needs to be a regulation regime; those things still need to happen,” she stressed. “You can participate in EFSA and not be a member of the EU … I’m absolutely sure that we will have a continued relationship with EFSA.”
Hancock recognised that as it moved towards the new regulatory regime, the FSA would need to do more to gain the trust of the food industry and to encourage businesses to share the essential data it needed to make it work.
Gain the trust of the food industry
“What we have said is that under no circumstances would we share any data without the express permission of its owner in relation to this new regime,” Hancock stressed.
“We actually want specific data, which answers a specific question and we want them to give us access to it … We understand the concern [about undermining companies’ competitive position] and we don’t want that concern to get in the way of a better regulatory system that provides more assurance.”
Hancock also argued that the new regulatory regime would give more certainty, more oversight, more accountability and more evidence than is provided now.