In a bid to sustain biosecurity across its agri-food supply chain, the UK will implement EU Smarter rules for safer food (SRSF) regulations on December 13, 2019. Preparations required by UK businesses have been set out ahead of the imminent new regulations, which are aimed at modernizing protections against animal diseases and plant pests, as well as improving food safety. The new regulations will apply to the UK under all Brexit scenarios.
“The package will modernize, simplify and improve existing health and safety standards for the agri-food chain. It will take a risk-based approach to animal, plant and public health protection, introducing more efficient pest and disease control measures,” states the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra).
SRSF regulations coming into place on this date are divided into two areas and will affect businesses in the following industries:
- The Official Controls Regulation (OCR) applying to all UK businesses involved in trade in animals and products of animal origin (POAO).
- The Plant Health Regulation (PHR) applying to all UK businesses involved in the production, manufacture, supply and regulation of plants, seeds, timber and plant products.
Defra states that it has directly communicated with businesses affected by these changes on what preparations they need to make. “It is crucial these preparations are undertaken to ensure businesses can continue to operate with the import and export of these products,” the government body asserts.
These changes include:
- For animal and animal by-products businesses: Using an improved IT system TRACES (NT) to log imports from beyond the EU and new look import forms.
No matter the outcome of Brexit, even if the UK were to leave the EU without a deal, these new regulations will be retained by the Withdrawal Act and will continue to apply subject to any amendments by the UK Parliament.
- For plant, seed and timber businesses: A large increase in the number of plant passports required as well as changes to the content and format of plant passport applications forms for businesses.
Post-Brexit food safety concerns
Food safety remains central to the Brexit discussion. As the UK prepares for its departure from the single market, industry representatives have decried the potential devolution of biosecurity measures from EU oversight to local regulators. In August, it first emerged that imported chlorinated chicken, as part of a potential post-Brexit free trade deal with the US, is “the thin end of the wedge” that could impact public health.
As highlighted by Sustain Food and Farming Alliance, lobbyists have been calling on the UK to drop its first attitude to safety and food standards in favor of US exporters. The demands were made in responses to a consultation about the future US-UK trade deal, led by the USTR. They include the UK:
- Abandoning the precautionary principle for food standards.
- Accepting hormone-treated beef.
- Lifting the ban on ractopamine pork.
- Slashing subsidies to cattle farmers.
- Allowing new genetically-modified foods to be sold with minimal regulation.
- Scrapping mandatory labeling rules on GMOs.
- Getting rid of Britain’s safety-first approach to chemicals.
- Ditching EU laws that protect UK special food and drink products from “cheap copycats.”
- Ignoring the presence of hormones and pus in dairy products.
- Removing mandatory labeling for E-numbers and food coloring.
- Not introducing a ban on antibiotic-treated meat.
- Eliminating UK testing for parasitic worms in pork.
- Accepting chlorine-washed chicken.
Earlier this week, a series of leaked official documents was released to the public on popular discussion website Reddit, outlining US plans to leverage lucrative trade opportunities following the UK’s departure from the single market’s stringent food safety standards.
- Legalizing dangerous pesticides.
“These leaked documents are concrete proof that the risks to our food, farmers and the environment from a future US trade deal, which we have been flagging for years, are clear and present danger,” Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of the UK agri-food body Sustain Food and Farming Alliance, responds to the exposé.
“Here, we have in writing US trade negotiators saying that if we retain the high British food standards that we enjoy as members of the EU, this would be the ‘worst case scenario’ for them,” she further adds.
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