After the UK left the EU, Philip Randles explains how the FSA handled food incidents, including allergens and fraudulent activity.
When the Food Standards Agency (FSA) began preparations for leaving the EU, one of the most important areas of our work was maintaining our ability to handle the more than 2,000 food incidents reported to us annually.
We had to make sure the incident response in the four UK countries continued to run smoothly.
Three months into our new relationship with the EU, the hard work the FSA and our colleagues at Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have put into building capacity and cability means we are still able to identify and identify food incidents in the UK to respond to it.
One of the biggest challenges was losing access to the EU Rid Alert System for food and feed Alert System (RASFF) that exchanges information with Member States on problems with food and feed. As of January 1, 2021, the UK will no longer have full access to the system, although we will continue to receive a RASFF notification for the alerts that directly affect the UK.
We learned from non-EU countries like Canada and New Zealand how they communicate with their trading partners about food safety risks.
To offset any risk from this loss of information, the FSA is now using the International network of the Food Safety Authority (INFOSAN) – which includes more than 180 countries – to notify others affected by food safety incidents in the UK.
We also use a variety of monitoring dashboards to identify and assess emerging food risks. These dashboards monitor a range of information sources including international food alerts, weather, trade, social media and trade data. This approach enables us to use activities in a targeted manner to counter risks, e.g. B. Carry out spot checks and analyzes where they are needed most.
International engagement is also a key priority. We learned from non-EU countries like Canada and New Zealand how they communicate with their trading partners about food safety risks.
We also use INFOSAN not only for notifications but also to build closer relationships with UK trading partners. We invested in an upgrade of the network’s community website to bring it up to date with the latest platform standards for information sharing.
An FSA MP has also been added to the INFOSAN team, where he will play a key role in developing a working group that will address a range of global food safety issues, including crisis coordination.
Throughout the FSA’s history, a close relationship with the food industry has been an integral part of the way we deal with food incidents. In the post-transition world, this has never been more important.
Our food industry liaison group continues to play an important role in identifying food safety risks in the UK, providing a platform for the industry to view on potential emerging risks. It also represents a group that we can turn to in the event of a large or complex incident to improve our understanding of how to deal with the risks.
Our importers working group also helps us better understand how importers can mitigate the risk of incidents and promote compliance with national food safety standards.
From the start of our preparations for leaving the EU, it was clear to the FSA that our top priority of ensuring that UK food stays safe and genuine is not going to change. Effective food incident management has always been a key element in fulfilling this commitment and we are confident that we will be able to identify and respond to future risks that the UK may face.
About the author
Philip Randles is Head of Incidents & Resilience at FSA, where he leads a multidisciplinary team that detects, manages and prevents serious food and feed incidents and food-borne outbreaks. Philip joined FSA in 2008 after a long career in technical and factory management in the food industry.