Food standards face ‘significant’ challenges

Scottish Parliament building

Food standards in the UK have largely been maintained despite Brexit, the pandemic, and the war in Ukraine, according to a new report.

However, the Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) report warns of significant challenges ahead.

Two of the main concerns identified are firstly the fall in the level of local authority inspections of food businesses, which are being hampered by resourcing pressures faced by local authorities, despite some progress in getting inspections back on track. Secondly, the delay in establishing full UK imports controls for high-risk food and feed from the EU, continues to reduce our ability to prevent the entry of unsafe food into the UK market.

FSS Chair, Heather Kelman, said: “We are under no illusions there are major challenges ahead. As the report points out, there is a significant issue in relation to local authority resourcing, which could have a dramatic effect on the ability to carry out inspections, food law delivery and, at the very core, it could cause a risk to public health. Establishing full UK import controls is also an issue which has the potential to not only damage consumer confidence, but ultimately affect the high standards of foods being placed on the market in Scotland and the rest of UK.

“It is our collective responsibility to make sure that these current challenges in the food system are mitigated in a way that puts us on course for a safe, healthier and more sustainable future food system.”

The report – Our Food 2021: An annual review of food standards across the UK – will be laid across all four UK Parliaments/Assemblies on 27 June. It is the first of what will be an annual report on how food standards are changing over time, so that consumers and parliamentarians remain sighted on the changes and challenges to the food system and the evidence that is being shared with government decision-makers.