SCOTLAND – Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has issued a warning that if the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill is advanced in its current form, there are significant risks and effects for Scottish consumers in relation to food safety and standards.
The Bill was announced in January 2022 with the intention of making it simpler to change, replace, and repeal existing EU law.
However, the Bill, which was published last week will eliminate consumer protections for food that have long been in place in Scotland and the rest of the UK, claims FSS.
“At the heart of what we do, is our responsibility to protect Scottish consumers. This Bill, as it currently stands, poses a significant risk to Scotland’s ability to uphold the high safety and food standards which the public expects and deserves.
“Much of the legislation which could be repealed as a result of the sun-setting clause has been developed over the course of decades and with significant UK input and influence. It exists to ensure consumer safety through the protection of the most vulnerable and ensuring the food and feed which is on the market is safe,” Heather Kelman, Chair of FSS, commented.
Businesses are already required by EU law to label for allergies and give consumers clear food information.
It also establishes maximum allowable amounts of chemical pollutants in food and limits the use of decontaminants on meat, such as chlorine washes on chicken.
At its most basic level, retained EU law requires companies to uphold minimal standards of sanitation and to recall unsafe food.
“At the heart of what we do, is our responsibility to protect Scottish consumers. This Bill, as it currently stands, poses a significant risk to Scotland’s ability to uphold the high safety and food standards which the public expects and deserves.”
According to FSS, other vulnerable populations may also be impacted by this bill’s direct effects on protections related to the quality and composition of baby food.
The regulator reports that these safeguards will be eliminated on December 31, 2023, unless action is taken to keep them in law and successfully sustain consumer protection, which would involve a significant investment of time and money.
“This Bill could lead to a significant hole where consumer protections sit. The purpose of regulators and regulations, especially in relation to food, is to protect consumers. This Bill confuses ‘red tape’ with consumer protection and indicates that the latter is now less of a priority and of less importance than when we were in the EU,” Kelman said.
Resources will now have to be stretched thinly to preserve the status quo while introducing new legislation to safeguard Scottish consumers, FSS continues.
Even if high legal standards were still in place in Scotland, the Internal Market Act, which was passed in 2020 despite serious objections raised by FSS and disregarded, would make it impossible to prevent products from the rest of the UK from being sold in Scotland that were made in violation of lower legal standards.
“Whichever way consumers voted on Brexit, they did not vote for a race to the bottom of lower standards and a de-regulated landscape that reduces consumer protection. We cannot imagine that this is what the UK Government intends,” said the FSS boss.