Speaking at the FSA’s board meeting yesterday (19 September), former Finsbury Food Group chief executive David Brooks expressed his disappointment that assurance schemes had not consulted with the organisation more.
“We’ve had a new version of BRC [British Retail Consortium Global Standard for Food Safety] standards come out in the last month or so and it’s disappointing that our ability to be involved in its creation has been limited or possibly nil,” said Brooks.
“BRC [Version 8] has been issued and there might be doubts about whether it matches all the food safety requirements of food law, when it’s probably the most widely used standard in terms of the volume of food that it covers.”
Regulating Our Future
Brooks was also concerned that the poor consultation occurred during the FSA’s work on its Regulating Our Future scheme, which was meant to create an assurance framework for Primary Authorities and Private Assurance.
“The major retailers and the major manufacturers all comply with standards at that level – and indeed above – and we’re doubting it,” added Brooks. “That feels like a failure of the food safety system in the widest possible sense.”
Heather Hancock, chair of the FSA board, called for third-party schemes such as the BRC and Red Tractor Assured Food Standards to open dialogue with the organisation. Changes to the Red Tractor scheme had also been announced without consulting the FSA, she said.
Hancock warned that businesses could be signing up for these assurance schemes not realising that they might not cover all parts of food law.
‘Bring them to the table’
“We need to bring those assurance schemes to the table and ask them to front up about what they are. Are you an assurance scheme in the way that we look at it?” asked Hancock.
“We need more confidence with the standards and more certainty about the quality of assurance of those schemes and the people providing the assurance in those schemes. We need better engagement.”
In response, BRC technical director David Brackston said the premise of its global standards and the way it was audited was based as a minimum on legal compliance in the country of manufacture and applicable regulations in country of sale.
“We consulted widely before the working group started to develop issue 8 and this included the output from the with the FSA,” said Brackston.
“The draft of our issue 8 Standard was made available for public consultation in November 2017 and we did receive over 1100 comments which were then reviewed by the working group and taken into account before producing the final standard.”
Meanwhile, earlier this month, the FSA claimed that figures, which showed that more than a fifth of targeted meat sample tests in 2017 found DNA from unlabelled animals, were “not representative of the food industry”.