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Food safety in jeopardy

The UK Food Safety Authority proposes a new food regulation model that experts say is 'very bad for public health.'

By: Janice Hoppe

Most people have a go-to supermarket that they trust will provide them with food and beverages that are safe for consumption. How trusting would you be if the government allowed supermarkets to start police themselves? I’m guessing not so much. 

That’s exactly what could happen in the United Kingdom as its cash-strapped Food Standards Authority (FSA) proposes ways to cut costs. The FSA is responsible for food safety and food hygiene across the UK and works with local authorities to enforce food safety regulations.

The FSA proposes that “trusted” retailers be given special permission to police themselves when it comes to food safety regulations. But just four years after the horse meat scandal, The Telegraph reports experts describing the move as “the most scandalous government decision on food safety in recent history.” 

Food safety jeopardyTesco, a British multinational grocery and general merchandise retailer, was selected to pilot the new plan and the same supermarket that was at the center of the horse meat scandal. Its inexpensive Everyday Value Beef Burgers tested at 29.1 percent horse DNA when all other brands tested had less than 0.3 percent. Would you trust Tesco to uphold food safety standards with no regulation? Didn’t think so.

Although mind-boggling as to why the FSA would look to Tesco as the first “trusted” supermarket to pilot its proposal for three months, the authority says there are worse restaurants and retailers it wants to crack down on. FSA considers those places to be the “real threat” to public health and are more likely to make customers ill.

“Safety will always be at the heart of what we decide to do,” the FSA said in a statement. “We are proposing a model that continues to use inspections and visits alongside the information we can gain from business’s data and accredited third-party audits to ensure that food safety and authenticity are top of a food business’s mind very day – not just on inspection day.” 

The FSA’s current model is to send local authority inspectors to look at how businesses are providing assurance to customers in relation to food standards and hygiene, the website says. “We believe this is a resource-intensive way to maintain confidence that food is safe and what is says it is, and we believe there are other options also worth exploring as a means of ensuring consumer protection,” the authority says.

The new model could start as early as 2020, allowing retailers that can prove they meet the standards to be exempt from visits and allowed to hire a private firm to do their inspections. 

Join the conversation using the hashtag #foodregulation or emailing the FSA at 

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