Food Safety Conference round-up

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

This year's Food Safety Conference covered a variety of topics across the supply chain
This year's Food Safety Conference covered a variety of topics across the supply chain
This year's Food Safety Conference examined the Food Standards Agency's update on its Regulating Our Future Programme and how businesses need to focus more on allergens.

Future food regulations

The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) Nina Purcell has outlined work done by the agency on its Regulating Our Future Programme.

Launched earlier this year, the programme is designed to help businesses understand their responsibilities for producing safe food, as well as create a unified view of food businesses operators in England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

The FSA hopes to undertake research into food business attitudes to registration.

However with only 40% of respondents reported to be aware of the FSA’s enhanced registration scheme for all food businesses (see also page 35), the FSA’s development of a digital platform to help registration could improve the situation.

Purcell outlined the next steps for the Regulating Our Future programme, which included more engagement with stakeholders on changing regulations, surveying current understanding of issues and developing a new approach to risk assessment.

Allergen work needed

Food businesses need to rethink how they approach allergen contamination checks, an industry expert has advised.

Speaking at the Food Safety Conference, Barbara Hirst, consultant for food safety and quality at Reading Scientific Services, said that food businesses needed to reassess where allergen threats may come from and that operators might not realise how contamination can arise.

She warned that allergen management was expected by multiple parties, including regulators, customers, consumers and auditing bodies, but that the guidance was not always clear on what to do, how to do it, whether it was good enough and what evidence they needed to provide should contamination occur.

She added that “allergen management in most manufacturing sites was difficult, due to the handling of multiple allergens with frequent changeovers”​ leading to an increase in product recalls due to contamination.

Border delay warning

Border control issues once the UK leaves the EU were put forward by an industry expert at this year’s Food Safety Conference.

Nils Bings, partner and head of food law and regulatory compliance FMCGs at DWF, cautioned that as well as labour availability issues and regulation, border checks could cause huge delays on UK roads. He warned that if even just two minutes of checks were added to the process at Dover port, it would create a 17-mile queue on the M20 within 12 hours.

He offered up the solution of Smart Border 2.0, currently in operation between EU member Sweden and non-EU country Norway. This uses automatic number plate recognition linked to the National Motor Registry Database and has a 15km customs control zone on either side of the border, allowing checks to be carried out away from the border, thus easing pressure.

Future plans for the system include trucks to be able to pass through without stopping thanks to large X-ray scanners and IT systems.

Brexit food opportunities

Businesses need to stop panicking and start preparing for Brexit, according Dr John Bassett, scientific policy director at the Institute of Food, Science & Technology.

At the Food Safety Conference, he said that despite the uncertainties created by Brexit in terms regulatory reform, there could be opportunities for food businesses that were prepared for the change.

“It’s certainly worth staying focused on the opportunities it might bring,”​ he explained. “It will require greater flexibility and expertise but there are chances to have closer trading relationships with non-EU countries, the opportunity to set our own ​[UK] regulatory standards and potentially have fewer interventions for compliant and lower-risk businesses.”

Barrett added there wouldn’t be a “quick change in legislation”​ and, in the meantime, businesses should “be aware of where their supply chain comes from, have a robust supply chain and stock up just in case”.

Entitled ‘A focus on future law and threats’, Food Manufacture’s Food Safety Conference 2018 was held at etc.venues Maple House, Birmingham. It was sponsored by AIB International, Pal International, and Westgate Factory Dividers.

Please click this link​ to register your interest for next year’s conference.

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