The UK is facing “significant risks” to its food standards following two years of upheaval, according to a new report.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) released the first of what will be an annual report highlighting changes and challenges facing the UK’s food system.
The two agencies said it comes as a response to pressures caused by Britain’s departure from the EU, the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
The inaugural report, published on Monday, concludes that food standards were maintained in 2021 despite the upheaval, however this a “cautious conclusion”.
“While food safety standards have largely been maintained, both organisations recognise there are significant risks ahead,” it says.
The FSA and FSS identified two main concerns for UK food standards from the evidence reviewed.
One is the fall in the number of inspections of food businesses as a consequence of the resourcing pressures faced by local authorities.
The other is the delay in establishing full UK imports controls for high-risk food and feed from the EU, which has reduced the ability to prevent the entry of unsafe products into the UK market.
FSA chair, Professor Susan Jebb, said: “This first joint report reflects on a period during which there has been significant concern about the impact of world events on food standards and safety.
“It is encouraging for UK consumers and our international trading partners that this report provides reassurance that the high food standards we enjoy in the UK have been upheld during a really tough period for the food system.
“However, the effects of recent momentous events are still being felt, and will continue to have an impact on our food systems for many years to come.
“We are under no illusions that there are major challenges ahead.”FSA chair Professor Susan Jebb
Prof Jebb said establishing full UK import controls on food from the EU by 2023 is a priority.
“The longer the UK operates without assurance that products from the EU meet our high food and feed safety standards, the less confident we can be that we can effectively identify potential safety incidents,” she said.
Prof Jebb also warned progress with local authority inspections could be hindered by resourcing constraints.
“We, along with our partners in Government, must all make sure that the current challenges in the food system are resolved in a way that puts us on course for a safe, healthier and more sustainable future food system,” she said.
A government spokesperson told City A.M. this morning that “when the UK left the European Union we regained the right to manage our own borders in a way that works for Britain. This includes how we manage imports into our country from overseas.
“Our new borders strategy will focus on technology to reduce unnecessary costs and delays – which will help businesses and consumers across the UK.
“The controls introduced in January 2021 on the highest risk imports of animals, animal products, plants and plant products will continue to apply in order to safeguard the UK’s biosecurity.”