When you shop in a UK supermarket anywhere, you want to be sure that the food you buy is safe for you and your children to eat. Do you ever wonder who ensures that you can shop with confidence? Whilst the UK was a member of the EU, their legislation and policies set the high standard of food production and animal welfare. What if our government decides to lower those standards for profit? The announcement of an Australian trade deal leaves many unanswered questions about food safety.
European regulations on food and drink
As members of the EU, we had to comply with standards set by The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This authority is an independent source of scientific advice on existing and emerging risks associated with the food chain. Most of EFSA’s work on the standard of food is undertaken in response to requests for scientific advice from the European Parliament, Commission and EU Member States.
But they also carry out scientific work on their own initiative. They examine emerging issues and new hazards and update assessment methods and approaches. This is known as ‘self-tasking’. EFSA adheres to a number of principles and practices, including transparency and good risk assessment. The Authority is also legally bound by European Union legislation on issues such as public access to documents.
EFSA advice on the standard of food produced is based on research in the EU member states and is the foundation for European policies and legislation by the EU Commission and EU Parliament. EFSA’s remit covers food and feed safety, nutrition, animal health and welfare and plant protection and welfare. Food businesses and producers are required to make an application for approval of their standard of food.
After Brexit what UK Authority ensures food and feed safety, nutrition and animal and plant protection? Obviously, if the standards in food production in the UK deviate from EFSA’s policies as legislated in the EU, our goods will no longer be acceptable in the European market.
EFSA’s oversight ensured that before Brexit we avoided feeding our family chicken washed in bleach or genetically modified plants allowed in the US.
The government promised us that leaving the EU will not lead to our lowering of standards in food production and animal welfare. We were also told we will continue to have frictionless trade with Europe in addition to the Global market we will be able to sign deals with.
Standard of food in the UK
Up to now, any ‘new’ trade deals with other countries were simply carry over of deals we had as members of the EU before Brexit, often with less advantageous conditions than we had enjoyed as an EU member. Obviously, the EU as a market of 500m people would have more clout in negotiations. than the UK market of 65m.
Liz Truss who negotiates trade deals for the UK seems to have a short memory. There is evidence that she knew that Brexit would put thousands of sheep farmers’ livelihoods at risk.
Last week, Truss announced the signing of a trade deal with Australia. There is no EU Australia trade agreement, largely due to some of the higher food and farming standards adhered to in Europe. Will the UK-Australia deal mean diverging from the EFSA’s standard of food legislation? Can we trust the food on our shelves to carry on being safe and healthy?
British farmers have expressed serious concerns about the standard of food produced and the methods used in Australia. There are horrific pictures of animal abuse in the media, for example as lambs have their rear ends chopped off without any pain relief.
The lower standards in farming methods in Australia would enable them to undercut the prices of British, locally produced food. Many small and medium sized Kent farms would go out of business as they could not compete with factory farm produce.
Many consumers look at the price of goods and not on their place of origin. Even if the ‘buy British’ slogan would entice people to prefer food produced in the UKprocessed food does not list the origin of all the ingredients used. It would be virtually impossible to avoid buying meat treated with chemicals, produced from animals that are fed hormones and kept in cruel conditions. Genetically modified vegetables, currently banned in the EU, would also enter the UK market unnoticed.
What you can do to resist lowering of UK standard of food
For updates and proposed actions, follow the National Farmers’ Union @NFUtweets and Save British Farming @SaveBritish on Twitter. Another good site is Compassion in World Farming. Write a letter to your MP and local paper – this from the European Movement provides a good template. Tell them that you support British farms who produce healthy food locally. Demand that UK keeps the ban on genetical modification, weed killers which endanger bees, toxic chemicals, and hormones which artificially increase growth in animals.
There is no compromise when it comes to the standard of food we put on the table for our children.