In her latest Regulating Our Future (ROF) update, published on Thursday (16 May) Hancock said that building a “modern, efficient and effective” regulatory system would “still need to be paid for, whether by the public purse or by business”.
While conceding that Brexit had “consumed lots of time and energy at the FSA” Hancock said that progress on modernising regulation had been “absolutely maintained”.
“We’ve consistently said that we’re trying to build a new funding model for food businesses that will ensure the future sustainability of the system,” Hancock said. “And that has to be based across a wider principle, across government, which is that businesses should bear the cost of regulation.”
Launched in 2017, the ROF programme is the FSA’s systematic review of the way food safety is regulated in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
No longer sustainable
Claiming that current regulatory system was outdated and no longer sustainable, it wanted to replace the ‘one-size fits all’ approach with a private assurance model, more tailored to the risk of individual businesses.
Local authorities have criticised the greater reliance on private sector food safety inspections, and the diminished role for its own enforcement officers, as potentially decreasing – rather than improving – safety standards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Hancock also provided an update on the rollout of an advanced registration system for all food and drink businesses, a key element of ROF. The service is currently being piloted across local authorities across the three nations, she explained, with 300 businesses registered.
“It’s a really user-friendly process for businesses and for local authorities, as it captures better data from food business operators right at the point they register,” she said.
Sharing of data
Food firms have argued that the sharing of data would compromise commercial sensitivity. Hancock had previously maintained it was “absolutely possible” to come up with a mechanism that would give the FSA the insight and evidence was is looking for, without compromising commercial interests.
Hancock also revealed that insight work conducted by the FSA on the possible impact of the ROF changes would be published later this month. “We’ll use the findings to make sure we’re helping people keep making informed decisions about food, and so our changes keep driving up hygiene standards and protecting public health,” she said.
“I am as ambitious as ever to deliver a modern regulatory system that applies to all businesses involved in producing and selling food, and that’s whether they are on the high street or on the internet, or somewhere further back in the supply chain,” Hancock added.