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Poor Brexit could jeopardise food security

William Hatchett08/11/2018 - 12:33

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Welham lived through petrol strikes
Welham lived through petrol strikes

A no or bad deal Brexit could jeopardise food imports and food security, CIEH president Dawn Welham has warned. 

Welham is operations and technical services director for Yorkshire-based food importer and broker Caterers Choice.

She comments, in the November issue of EHN magazine: ‘We still don’t know many things. We don’t know how duty is going to be imposed on imports, whether we are going to WTO rules and what the implications are for ports. The most pressing issue is going to be about food availability and security, as in “will we have food?”.

She adds: ‘Brexit doesn’t keep me awake, because I lived through the petrol strikes, working for a major retailer. Also, I can’t do anything about it. What I can do, from a professional point of view, is to plan to make sure that our customers have availability.’

Caterers Choice specialises in canned goods and ambient products, some from China. The company is a major supplier of tuna and canned tuna to UK supermarkets. Welham was previously UK technical director of AsdaWalmart, the world’s largest retailer.

She says: ‘Caterers Choice is in a relatively privileged position, because our goods are canned, not perishable. And they are not driver-accompanied. But we will still potentially be affected by chaos, if there isn’t a deal. The question will be, “can we get stock in?” We do have a Brexit plan in place we’ve have discussed it with our suppliers and customers.’

Canned tuna, she observes, as a relatively affordable source of protein with a long shelf-life, could be in high demand if supplies of fresh and perishable foodstuffs from the EU become restricted due to increased border controls, if a frictionless post-Brexit agreement cannot reached. She adds: ‘Stockpiling hasn’t started yet, at the consumer end. But there could be a strong shift to canned and frozen food. That’s the basis of our planning.’

Noting that austerity and the slowing of the UK economy are not just affecting environmental health in local government, she says in the EHN interview: ‘I worry about the pressure that local authorities are under, but I know colleagues in trading law and technical and environmental health teams in companies who are also very much constrained, with not enough people to go round. Just as in local government, environmental health is not an easy job and it’s not for the faint-hearted.’

Speaking on the controversy around the greater of private audit data for official controls proposed under the Food Standard Agency’s Regulating Our Future, she says: ‘I find this debate reductive. A change is going to happen and I think we should embrace it deal with it. Duplication of effort can never be a good thing. I just think it’s very straightforward. How can we use the information that’s collected more efficiently?

She comments of CIEH: ‘Our visibility is certainly greater, partly thanks to our effective use of digital channels. We now have a credible voice across a wide range of environmental health issues – both the traditional ones, like pollution, housing, food safety and health and safety, and entirely new ones. And if you look at what we provide for our members, there has been a step change. I feel, finally, that CIEH is an organisation that listens to all of its members, not just some of them.





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