Regulation: In a global modern food system…

A new set of rules is on the horizon as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) gets underway with its restructure of food safety regulation in the UK in order to deliver on its strategic goal of ‘Food We Can Trust’ – an aim that should be applauded and welcomed by the consumer.

As the FSA itself has said, ensuring that food is both safe and what it purports to be, in a fast changing and uncertain world, requires a fundamental redesign of its regulatory role and the way regulation is delivered for the benefit of consumers. Its vision is to move to a risk-based approach in which “the costs to business from regulation are no more than they need to be”.

This regulatory rethinking is in direct recognition of the more complex, globalised nature of our food supply. The FSA has put pressure on our manufacturers, retailers, restaurateurs and importers to ensure the veracity of their supply chain coupled with the increasing demand for new foods and the entry of new suppliers, leading to concerns that advance – ment in business innovation is outdating the existing regulatory regime. The rationale for the review also addresses the lack of resources available to maintain the approximate 350,000 annual inspections. But will the new framework and new rules be enough to tackle the growing complexity of food hygiene and are they sufficiently impartial and robust to maintain and engender trust and respect from consumers?

The FSA says it wants to set new standards in food safety and give a more comprehensive underpinning to its regulatory regime using various different sources of information. It also wants to ensure that food safety and authenticity are “top of a food business’s mind every day – not just on inspection day”.

Although the new model, coined ‘Regulating our Future’, remains a work in progress, the FSA has already outlined the need for better, more thorough regulation of food safety, by using up-to-date business information gleaned from internal auditing and sampling processes as well as information from third party organisations, moving away from the ‘one size fits all’ approach. It has embarked on a programme of engagement, including a three-month pilot programme to compare food safety data from specified big businesses with that collected during inspections from local authorities to see whether this “can be used to provide assurance that they [the businesses] are doing the right things for consumers.”

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