In a meeting yesterday (Tuesday 21 January), the FSA board discussed key concerns of the organisation in 2020.
First on the agenda was the role that the FSA would play in trade negotiations featuring food and feed, as well as the likely influx of requests for changes to current safety regulations and product approvals, once the UK leaves the EU.
It noted three main routes that would trigger changes to authorisations on food and feed: terms of trade agreements, triggering the FSA’s risk analysis process into action; a business making an application directly to the regulator; and the outcome of a dispute at World Trade Organization level over a particular product.
Negotiations on free trade agreements
The board also laid down the objectives that it agreed would direct FSA input to the UK Government’s negotiations on free-trade agreements, framed around ensuring that public health protection and consumer’s interests were put first.
Heather Hancock, FSA chair (pictured), said: “The FSA already has a statutory duty to provide advice to public bodies, and others, on the wider consumer interest in relation to food. This is not a duty limited to food and feed safety, it is the entirety of consumer interests in food.”
Henry Dimbleby, non-executive board member of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), was also on hand to discuss his work on the National Food Strategy for England.
‘Overdue statement of direction and intent’
While the FSA welcomed the Strategy as an “overdue statement of direction and intent”, its members expressed their concern that domestic consumers and politicians took food safety for granted, and stated that it was essential that the harm caused by past scandals, such as BSE and salmonella in eggs, was not forgotten.
The meeting also saw the FSA board agree a long-term strategy to improve quality of life for people with food allergies and intolerances, with a particular focus on the needs of young adults – a group known to be subject to particular risks and disproportionate harm.
Hancock added: “We want to protect people, but we want them to have as wide and as fulfilling food lives as they possibly can, and we will call it out when we think this is not being supported by industry.”