Business Leaders’ Forum

2 Sisters Food Group exposé underlines need for FSA reform

By Rick Pendrous

- Last updated on GMT

Barnes: ‘Current regulatory delivery model is not fit for purpose’
Barnes: ‘Current regulatory delivery model is not fit for purpose’
The urgent need to reform the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA’s) regulatory approach was brought into sharp focus by the alleged food hygiene incidents uncovered by the press investigation at the 2 Sisters Food Group West Bromwich chicken cutting plant last year, according to an expert on food safety.

“The incident certainly raised issues about the approach of assurance and regulatory audits – particularly how they might better assess a company’s food safety culture,”​ said John Barnes, director of consultancy at Enmoore and former head of the FSA’s Local Delivery Division.

“But I do not agree it means the FSA is not fit for purpose.”

Barnes was speaking at Food Manufacture’s​ Business Leaders’ Forum held in London at the end of January. Host sponsor for the event was legal firm DWF. Food waste reduction specialist Company Shop & Community Shop also sponsored the forum.

‘Not fit for purpose’

“I do accept, though, that the current regulatory delivery model is not fit for purpose,”​ Barnes added. “It is neither sustainable nor the most effective for consumers.

However, he suggested that the FSA’s reform plans under its Regulating Our Future programme had been undermined to some extent by the 2 Sisters incident.

“Unfortunately, the​ [incident at 2 Sisters] has been unhelpful in instilling trust in a regime where regulators make greater use of industry assurance and indeed whistleblowing – which is what the FSA is proposing.”

Barnes said the UK – both consumers and the food industry itself – needed a strong central regulator.

Robust industry assurance

He added that central regulators globally would need to encourage and use robust industry assurance to effectively target their resources in today’s global supply network where consumer demands were changing.

“For me, 2 Sisters brought into sharp focus that industry must share more readily its assurance findings with the regulator for consumers to have any confidence or trust in the system – especially a more co-regulatory model that the FSA is looking to move toward.

“Currently, industry does not have enough trust in the FSA to share this data.

“In light of the House of Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee inquiry into the 2 Sisters incident and the greater transparency consumers and media are demanding more generally, I do not believe that position remains credible.”

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