Supply chains opinion

More FSA resources to meet hard Brexit

By Rick Pendrous contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food Manufacture editor Rick Pendrous: the FSA needs more resources to cope with a hard Brexit
Food Manufacture editor Rick Pendrous: the FSA needs more resources to cope with a hard Brexit

Related tags: European union, Food standards agency

Given Boris Johnson’s continued hotly contested assertion that repatriation of the UK’s £350M weekly contribution to the EU could provide a huge additional spending boost to the NHS, that won’t leave much left for the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

It could leave a big problem, as the FSA has argued that it will need significant extra funding if it is to take over the various regulatory functions currently undertaken by EU institutions, such as the European Commission, European Council and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), to ensure the safety of food.

In a paper presented to the FSA’s board meeting in Belfast last month, Rod Ainsworth, its director of regulatory and legal strategy, reported that in planning for the increased risk assessment responsibilities falling on the agency’s shoulders after Brexit, a “significant increase in our existing scientific and other capacities” ​was required.

Burden of taking on more risk

Add to that the increased burden of taking on more risk communication and risk management responsibilities, and the FSA could be looking for extra powers and a lot more money from government if it is to increase its supervision and regulation of food and feed imports and exports to and from the EU and elsewhere.

While the paper smacks of ‘hoping for the best, but planning for the worst’ in the case of a hard or ‘cliff edge’ Brexit, in which no deal is agreed, it states: “The decision that the UK should leave the EU in March 2019 has highlighted the need for an effective regulatory regime for food safety in the UK and that certain regulatory functions and systems currently undertaken at European level may need to be replaced or maintained.”

And that will, without doubt, cost more. FSA chair Heather Hancock told Food Manufacture​ only a couple of months ago that she expected the FSA’s relationship with EFSA to continue in some form after Brexit. But, evidently, this can’t be guaranteed.

Extra resourcing of the FSA’s National Food Crime Unit is also likely to be necessary to accommodate the potential loss of resource provided at EU level.

Loss of resource

This includes: information sharing and tracing food imported from third countries, plus the capacity to investigate food-based criminal behaviour.

The paper states: “It is the view of FSA officials that this becomes a more important priority in the context of the UK’s departure from the EU.”

The paper also reports that the FSA is planning for an increase in its activities to support export trade through advice and certification of exported produce beyond the EU.

All of which means that even without the changes planned under its Regulating our Future initiative – the FSA will have to reconsider its structure and size, given Brexit’s spanner in the works.

Related topics: Food Safety

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