homeWednesday 22nd May 2019

Secret plan to ‘suspend’ food safety regs post-Brexit

Katie Coyne07/06/2018 - 12:46

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Brexit seminar
Brexit seminar

Food chaos is expected post-Brexit particularly around the Irish border unless the government takes action now.

Officials will face a choice of waiving food trucks through customs without proper checks, risking fraud and food safety, or long tailbacks at the border and spoiled produce, experts warn.

CIEH has learned that the government is considering suspending regulations post Brexit, throwing the door open to food fraud and criminality, and risking unsafe food from entering.

Tim Lang, CIEH vice president, said: ‘Without betraying confidences because we’re still digging on this, I have been very reliably told by a very senior person inside and advising government that they are prepared to suspend regulations if necessary.

‘Well that is extraordinary. I suppose on one level we can say this is a recognition of the seriousness of what’s at stake here.

‘But on another level it throws up in the air the whole basis of food safety and food inspections and the regulatory regimes we have got at present.’

Lang made these comments during a webinar for CIEH members, discussing a report on food supply post-Brexit. He was one of three authors of the Food, Brexit and Northern Ireland: Critical Issues produced by the CIEH and Food Research Collaboration.

The idea of suspending regulations at borders was met with incredulity earlier this year on a BBC Question Time. Transport secretary Chis Grayling was asked to respond to an Imperial College report that said just a two-minute check on lorries going through Dover would result in a 29-mile tail back.

Grayling suggested that there would be no customs checks and lorries would be waived through. While this was met with ridicule it now appears that the government is seriously considering this option.

Each year 680,000 tonnes of food moves each way, between NI and Great Britain yet the authors of the report warn that reports looking into food supply post Brexit has been shelved.

Lang added: ‘The critical issue is that food and Brexit is not being taken seriously enough. The car industry, the city and finance, these are all high-profile. Northern Ireland is high profile but not the food policy and food flows within that. And we think that has to be a priority.

‘Maybe this is naïve but we said that all agencies – public health agencies like us - really need to be engaged and start giving it urgent attention and raise it with our MPs and do whatever we can do. 

‘We’ve got to really see this as a big issue. It’s not business as usual. There’s got to be a commitment to maintaining uninterrupted food flows.

‘Northern Ireland has a terrible diet related, ill health problem – that’s why we were very concerned about the 680,000 tonnes that flows into Northern Ireland. It needs to be maintained. It’s mostly ‘the good stuff’ – fruit and vegetables and so on.’

The report into food post Brexit makes more than 30 recommendations on action that needs to be taken and can be read in full here:

The LGA urged the government to ensure that the UK still has access to food safety and animal health databases post-Brexit, particularly in light of recent food-related scandals.

LGA Brexit taskforce chair Kevin Bentley said: ‘If we lose access to these databases, we will lose access to vital intelligence about the origin of food, feed and animal products, and won’t be aware when rapid alerts are issued to the rest of the continent.

‘This will significantly weaken our ability to effectively protect the food system, increasing the risk of a new scandal and undermining public confidence in the food industry.’



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