FSA COVID-19 food report and changes to food law code

By James Ridler contact

- Last updated on GMT

Consumers food habits change during COVID-19 as the FSA publishes a revised Food Law Code of Practice
Consumers food habits change during COVID-19 as the FSA publishes a revised Food Law Code of Practice

Related tags: Food safety, coronavirus

New research from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) identifies a shift in consumer diets during the COVID-19 pandemic, as it launches changes to its Food Law Code of Practice.

The FSA has published a report that explored consumers’ experiences of food during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Produced by cross-party think tank Demos, the Food in a Pandemic report ​found a significant proportion of the population had bought food more locally or grown more food during the pandemic. That seemed to reflect a wider move towards individual self-sufficiency.

Of the 10,069 adults surveyed, 78% supported the UK keeping its current food quality standards, even if food was more expensive and less competitive in the global market. A similar proportion (82%) also supported maintaining the UK’s current animal welfare standards when presented with the same trade-off against prices and competitiveness. 

Healthy v Unhealthy

A third of respondents (32%) said they had ate more healthy main meals, a third (33%) also said they ate more unhealthy snacks.

Senior researcher at Demos report co-author Rose Lasko-Skinner said there had been three key shifts in people’s eating and consumption habits during the pandemic.

“The first is an unprecedented rise in food insecurity caused by new physical and financial barriers to buying food as a result of the pandemic,”​ she explained.

“The second is a potential improvement in eating habits for those who have had more free time and spent more time at home. And the final shift is a new consumer consciousness, with people having wasted less food and bought and shopped more locally.”

Significant divergence

FSA chief executive Emily Miles said the research proved that people’s experience of food had diverged widely during the pandemic.

“While some have seen eating habits improve, and potentially made lifelong improvements to their diets, others have struggled to feed themselves and their families,” ​she added. “All of us in government must now reflect on what this means for the future of food and public health.”

This week also saw the FSA publish the revised Food Law Code of Practice (The Code) and Food Law Practice Guidance, as well as introduce a Competency Framework in England and Northern Ireland.

The launches followed consultation in November and December last year, with the FSA in Wales still consulting on the proposed changes. The Welsh consultation closes next week, 25 March.

Key changes

Baseline knowledge, skills and experience requirements have been modernised to enable environmental health and trading standards professionals in England and environmental health professionals in Northern Ireland to undertake official food controls.

Other big changes include the replacement of existing competency requirements with a competency framework – with competency defined by activity not role – and the introduction of a provision enabling the FSA to be more responsive in issuing advice.

Maria Jennings, director for regulatory compliance, people and Northern Ireland, said: “The revised codes, practice guidance and introduction of the competency framework will facilitate more effective use of key professionals and will enable individuals with other qualifications to be recruited to undertake specified activities.

“This will help alleviate the challenges local authorities face in recruiting suitable people to deliver their food service.”

The FSA has committed to further reviews of the Code over the next few years to reform the regulatory delivery model and deliver a fit-for-purpose, sustainable regime to protect consumers.

Related topics: Food Safety

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