A move by the UK government to scrap EU restrictions following Brexit has been branded as a major threat to food safety by authorities in Scotland.
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) issued the warning following last week’s publication of The Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill.
A precursor for moves to amend, replace and repeal retained EU law, the bill, spearheaded by business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, has provoked fierce opposition north of the border, amid accusations it is a Westminster “landgrab” and could lead to reduced food safety standards.
The bill paves the way for the UK to replace hundreds of EU laws, including 570 pieces of legislation overseen by Defra alone.
They include EU laws requiring businesses to provide clear information on their food, as well as labels for allergens.
Other rules cover the use of decontaminants on meat, such as chlorine washes on chicken, and maximum permitted levels of chemical contaminants in food.
“We in Food Standards Scotland are quite incredulous as to what it would mean for food safety and standard protections in Scotland and across the UK as a whole,” said Geoff Ogle, FSS CEO, in a letter to industry leaders obtained by The Grocer.
“This bill, in our view, presents serious challenges to the current standards UK consumers benefit from.”
Ogle said the draft would remove almost every item of standard setting food law in the UK on 31 December 2023, unless legislation was made to preserve those standards.
“This covers everything from the basic fundamentals of food law, like requiring businesses keep their premises clean and setting upper limits for chemicals in food, and it would remove legal standards for the production and composition of babyfood and other foods for vulnerable groups.
“Allergen labelling and the obligation to provide certain info to consumers would disappear, there would be no requirement for GM foods to be risk assessed, or labelled, and the production standards for meat would disappear.”
However, laying the bill before parliament, Rees-Mogg, said: “Retained EU law was never intended to sit on the statute book indefinitely.
“The time is now right to bring the special status of retained EU law in the UK statute book to an end on 31 December 2023, in order to fully realise the opportunities of Brexit and to support the unique culture of innovation in the UK.”