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Sweeping Deregulation Could Threaten Food and Environmental Standards, says CIEH

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) has expressed concern that the UK Government’s new The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022 could see many regulations protecting our country’s food, environment, and public health, simply disappear.

Heralded by the UK Government as a way to effectively draw a line under Brexit, put the UK statute book on a more sustainable footing, and end the special status of retained EU Law, the Bill is being presented as an effort to reclaim the sovereignty of Parliament and restore primacy to Acts of Parliament.

However, the ramifications of the Bill are incredibly concerning, and could threaten the UK’s regulatory frameworks in crucial areas such as food and environmental protection.

One of the most alarming clauses of the bill is its wholesale “sun-setting” of most of retained EU law by 31 December 2023, whereby these standards and protections would fall away from domestic law and no longer apply. Such a clause carries a very real risk that vital law, on which the smooth functioning of sectors of the economy and society depends, simply drops off the UK statute book.

Protections at risk of such an approach include:

• Obligations to label food for allergens to consumers
• GMO food and feed being placed on the UK market without any food safety assessment taking place, nor any obligation to label such food for consumers
• Legal limits on chemical contaminants in food, with possible consequences to human health
• Restrictions on use of decontaminants on meat, such as the chlorine washes on chicken, and businesses’ minimum hygiene standards
• Protections in relation to the safety and compositional standards of baby foods. Without legal standards, there would be no enforcement leaving some of our most vulnerable groups, and the public more generally, without any substantive protection

CIEH is now working with a coalition of MPs and Peers from across the political spectrum to urgently gain clarity from the Government about their intentions and to ascertain how they will ensure that our food, environment, and public health standards are protected in this deregulatory agenda.

Ross Matthewman, Head of Policy and Campaigns at CIEH, said:

“The potential consequences of this agenda are deeply alarming.

There had been vague noises from some of the new Prime Minister’s supporters over the summer about the need for a change of economic policy, and for the UK to become more competitive. However, a full onslaught on scores of regulations sweeping right across vital areas from food to our environment did not seem on the cards.

This illusion has been shattered by the publication of “The Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill 2022”.

Step away from the political rhetoric around sovereignty and the potential threat to our protections becomes quite stark.

There seems to be real danger that this bill puts at risk the high standards our country has with respect to environmental health. It threatens our regulatory frameworks in crucial areas such as food and environmental protection, and will have negative consequences for public health.

We are working with MPs and Peers to ensure that these concerns are heard by the UK Government and to find out what steps they intend to take to ensure that we do not throw away our safety.”