Blog: UK food safety watchdog updates post-Brexit policy addressing “evolving food system” – Food Ingredients First

22 Sep 2022 — Following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, local food safety authorities have had to initiate blanket reforms to ensure the consistency of goods, amid systematic challenges related to its transition. 

Dr. Adam Cook, Britain’s Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) head of science strategy, capability and research, introduces the latest updates to the agency’s Areas of Research Interest, designed to guide the agency in conducting its regulatory purview.

“The fundamental mission of the FSA, as laid out in our strategy, is food you can trust. In delivering this mission we have developed seven guiding principles,” he remarks.

“These include being science and evidence-led, being transparent and working with others.”

Acclimating post-Brexit
UK trade volumes have been suppressed by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and wider global pressures, according to the nation’s Public Accounts Committee.

Moreover, leaving the EU has significantly changed the FSA’s role. A drop in inspections at food businesses and delays in setting up full import controls for high-risk food are among the challenges flagged in the agency’s in-depth review released in June.

Leaving the EU has significantly changed the FSA’s role, with a drop in inspections at food businesses and delays in setting up full import controls for high-risk food among the challenges flagged.In March, the FSA devised a five-year strategy to ensure healthier, more sustainable foods reach UK consumers.

“We have taken on new functions, like approving new types of food that come on sale here and setting rules for checks of imported food,” Emily Miles, FSA chief executive, commented in May shortly after the revealing of the agency’s five-year strategy.

“Today the FSA therefore plays a more critical role than ever in supporting governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland on matters relating to food.”

Revised areas of research interest
The FSA has now completed its revised Areas of Research Interest.

“The aims of the ARI are to set out the research questions that we want to answer to ensure a safer food system. These are not the first set of ARI that the FSA has published – our first were in 2017 – but are a refresh and revision of our priorities based on an evolving food system,” comments Dr. Cook.

“The issues surrounding the food we all eat are broad and, as such, so are the research questions we wish to address.”

The FSA’s ARI include 14 research questions grouped under four strategic priorities.

The first priority is “assuring food and feed safety and standards,” which is deemed integral to FSA’s role to consider the risks to the public through the food they consume. These risks include chemical hazards, foodborne pathogens, food hypersensitivity, food crime, novel foods and how differences in food standards across the globe may impact trade and the food available to UK consumers.

“Understanding consumers and our wider society” investigates how consumers view and understand the food system, the role behavior and perception play in food standards and the impact of food insecurity on food safety.

“Adapting to the food and feed system of the future” entails predicting risks and opportunities that arise, including those associated with new food technologies, and how the FSA can continue to adapt to them when developing and implementing food regulations.

Lastly, “Addressing global grand challenges” delineates that the food system does not exist in isolation and that there is a need for understanding the role food plays in these wider challenges. These challenges include antimicrobial resistance, climate change and the move to more sustainable and healthy living.

“The updated FSA strategy expands our mission to support access to safe, healthy and sustainable food for everyone,” concludes Dr. Cook. 

“Therefore, in addition to the previous themes addressing food standards and safety, our revised ARI also consider a new focus on food that is healthier and more sustainable.”

Edited by Benjamin Ferrer

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