In the developed world we take food safety for granted. Visions of tainted water, vermin infested kitchens and rotting food stem from news reports from war-ravaged and poverty stricken countries. We happily assume that the food and drink we consume in the UK and Europe is safe, clean and hygienic. On the whole, it is. But we shouldn’t take it for granted.
It’s not simply safer to eat here because our economy is robust or we enjoy freedom of education, trade and other social liberties. It’s because stringent laws exist that our food manufacturers and retailers must adhere to, or face closure and bankruptcy. In an ideal world, education and a moral compass would be enough to ensure safe eating, but in reality, laws laid down by the Food Standards Association are the guidelines by which we hope and trust, that our food supplies are governed by.
Consumers have a right to information to help them make informed choices about the food they buy, and food manufacturers have a responsibility to be transparent in their provision of that information. They must be able to demonstrate to their customer that they are producing food that is safe and is truly what it claims to be. In this country, legal action is taken against those who do not comply.
On rare occasions when food laws are flaunted, consequences can be grave and usually highly publicised.
Health scares relating to food have serious consequences for food manufacturing businesses and consumers. The CDC, Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, indicates that approximately 380 people die each year in the UK from salmonella. Salmonella is transmitted by ingesting the bacteria, often caused by eating infected food such as meat, eggs, poultry and milk. Symptoms include diarrhoea, stomach cramps and sometimes vomiting and fever and can be fatal. The salmonella infection can spread from the intestines to the blood stream and cause death if not treated early.
As the world changes politically, economically and socially, food standards must be impeccably governed, and continually improved.
In July 2017 The FSA (Food Standards Association) Chairman, Heather Hancock, published the department’s plans to change food regulation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The FSA said current regulations are ‘outdated and increasingly unsustainable’. The changes will work in tune with the global political and economic landscape, including the approach of Brexit.
“Along with EU Exit, changing the way food businesses are regulated is one of our two key priorities for the years ahead,” said Hancock.
A modern, flexible and responsive regulatory system
“The case for changing the food regulation system is strong. We need to reform the way we regulate to keep up the pace of change in the global food economy: in what we eat, where we consume it, how it reaches us. We need a modern, flexible and responsive regulatory system. It is important that we act now, rather than wait for the system to falter, risking damaging consequences for public health and for trust in food. These reform plans are given extra momentum as the UK leaves the EU, a step that will adjust patterns of food production, trade and consumption.”
Quattro Foods’ and other food service businesses and their stakeholders will be affected by these changes. Large and small businesses, local authorities and consumers will feel the impact of the following changes:
• An enhanced system of registration for all food manufacturing businesses
• Creating a more robust, sustainable regulatory regime
• Improving standards in risky businesses
• Reducing administrative burden for businesses that demonstrate they are compliant with food law
• Creating a hostile environment with effective enforcement action against food manufacturing businesses that fail to fulfil their obligations
• Commitment to FSA’s “successful and trusted” Food Hygiene Rating Scheme and making it mandatory in England as it is in Wales and Northern Ireland
Clear and simple guidance
One major change, to be enforced in April 2018 is a law directing that certain harmful chemicals should be removed from foods under new food safety guidelines issued by the European Commission.
All food manufacturers will have to demonstrate that they have reduced levels of acrylamide in foods. The chemical has been identified by the World Health Organisation as a cancer risk, and forms when frying, roasting or baking foods with a high starch content at high temperatures (over 120C).
As we do not bake or fry in our kitchens this law doesn’t directly affect Quattro Foods but we wish our fellow food manufacturers well whilst working through the changes.
Products affected are those we already know are pretty unhealthy, such as crisps, chips, biscuits and cakes, as well as firm favourites, roast potatoes, cereals and even coffee.
“To achieve lower levels of acrylamide, food producers may cook food at a lower temperature but for longer, meaning the colour of food may become lighter. Every product is different, and food producers and caterers will be expected to determine the best time and temperature models for them, to ensure they are meeting the lower levels of acrylamide,” Dr Lisa Ackerley, food safety adviser at the British Hospitality Association, told Sky News.
Regulations will ensure that foods contain between 40 milligrams of acrylamide per kilogram for cereal-based baby food, to 350 for biscuits, 500 for chips and 750 for crisps.
Currently vegetable crisps from leading supermarket chains contain 2,957 milligrams of acrylamide per kilogram – almost four times the EU benchmark level.
The guidance will be clear and simple, and will be designed to help the industry comply with the new rules.
Food Safety and Brexit
“Along with the EU Exit, changing the way food businesses are regulated is one of our two key priorities for the years ahead” said Heather Hancock.
“We need to reform the way we regulate to keep up the pace of change in the global food economy: in what we eat, where we consume it, how it reaches us.
“We need a modern, flexible and responsive regulatory system. It is important that we act now, rather than wait for the system to falter, risking damaging consequences for public health and for trust in food. These reform plans are given extra momentum as the UK leaves the EU, a step that will adjust patterns of food production, trade and consumption.”
A fully reformed system will be in place by 2020, so businesses like Quattro Foods and their partners, the UK’s leading Foodservice providers and high street restaurants and chains, have two years to ensure they deliver the benefits that the public and businesses rightly expect.