Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) have today launched Our Food 2021: An annual review of food standards across the UK, an in-depth review of food standards in the UK.
The inaugural annual report comes after the UK food system has faced two years of major upheaval following the UK’s departure from the EU, the significant effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more recently the disruption caused by the war in Ukraine.
Despite these significant pressures, the report concludes, with a degree of caution, that food standards in the UK have largely been maintained. However, while there has been no evidence of a drop in standards, the 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, commented:
“This joint report comes at what we believe is a make or break juncture for food quality and safety, as we transition into a post-pandemic landscape and take on new responsibilities following our departure from the EU.
“It is really encouraging that this evidence-led report has found that our high food standards we strive for in Scotland and the rest of the UK have been upheld during a particularly challenging period. However, the full effects of these momentous events are still being felt, and will continue to have an impact on our food systems for years to come.
“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.”
Our Food 2021: An annual review of food standards across the UK was laid across all four UK Parliaments/Assemblies on 27 June, 2022. 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 our food system and the evidence we are sharing with government decision makers.