Following its response to the UK Government Internal Market White Paper in August, Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has written directly to the Scottish Parliament, to whom it is directly accountable, expressing concerns over the potential adverse impact the Bill has on consumers’ interests in relation to food.
FSS Chair, Ross Finnie, said:
“Our independent analysis of the Bill concludes that the legislation still doesn’t have the right balance regarding consumer interests.
“FSS has specific functions to develop, support and advise on policies on food and animal feed; a remit independent of Ministers, ensuring clear separation of regulations from those responsible for food industry growth and promotion.
“We believe the Bill blurs that distinction which has been in place for 20 years, and would impact our ability to ensure transparency in food safety and standards, and in advice on diet and nutrition.
“The Bill needs to do more to advance the protection of consumers. Cost reduction is not the sole determinant when it comes to public health protection as lessons from previous major food incidents demonstrate. Further, if consumer interest is defined solely by cost then inevitably it will drive down standards, because lower standards are less costly.
“Throughout preparations for EU Exit, FSS has been actively engaged and made significant progress with the Scottish and UK Governments and other bodies in the development of UK Frameworks, recognising the need for clarity in how the UK Internal Market will operate in future.
“At no point has legislative underpinning been identified as necessary, particularly as there has been no evidence to demonstrate ways in which bodies such as FSS are currently unable to protect consumers in relation to food.
“We are here to protect consumers and the approach within the Bill would cloud what is currently a very clear relationship between consumers, businesses and regulators, to the detriment of all.
“We therefore reiterate our response in August that we don’t believe there is a need for the proposals in the White Paper, and a different approach could be considered based on actual evidence of the ineffectiveness of Frameworks.”