We had this to say in our response to this question from the EFRA Commons Select Committee Call for Evidence on food security:
- Commercial drivers
Nutrient-dense foods are expensive to produce, assure and distribute. Without Government intervention, commercial drivers will lead to the consumption of less nutritious food. Foods will also be less safe, as opportunities for unscrupulous practices and organised crime will proliferate.
- Access to healthy, nutritious food
Already across the UK, a significant number of households cannot afford sufficient, healthy food. Reports of hunger are commonplace. Millions are already having to learn how to survive in what is, in essence, a nutrient famine for them. (1)
- Access to safe, assured food
Unsafe food leads to food poisoning, some become seriously ill, some die every year. Unassured food that isn’t what it says on the label can be dangerous to human health and encourages organised crime, including modern-day slavery, to escalate.
- Food standards: The UK has been a leader in having high regulatory standards; now the EU27 look set to lead us. If British farmers have to compete with low standard imports, they will go out of business.
- High regulatory standards, poor enforcement: Inspection, sampling and testing are no longer routine in England, (2) as local authorities do not have the resources to meet their statutory duties. This is arguably the worst of all worlds. Consumers trust the system, yet food standards are poorly enforced. Large retailers can afford to operate to high assured standards, but smaller ones can only work on trust. Food standards across catering services/hospitality sector is opaque.
- Relaxation of regulation during the Covid pandemic: The Government relaxed significant food regulations with the first lockdown. This was done without a review period. We can’t comment on whether they have been reimposed or not; we simply don’t know. We hope they have, we fear they have not.
- Food fraud and food crime: Not all of the recommendations under the Elliott Review have been implemented.
- Food poisoning: The collection of data on food poisoning incidents, hospitalisations and deaths, once routinely published on-line, appears not to happen any more. (3) We don’t know what’s happening. All we do know is that, without attention to enforcing regulations, a food poisoning outbreak becomes significantly more likely.
(1) The Food Foundation carry our regular surveys of food insecurity in the UK: https://foodfoundation.org.uk/initiatives/food-insecurity-tracking
(2) See: the Local Authority Enforcement Monitoring System (LAEMS) data sets: https://data.food.gov.uk/catalog/datasets/069c7353-4fdd-4b4f-9c13-ec525753fb2c
(3) Although the FSA webpage was updated in June 2020, the only official documentation there appears to be from 2018, and doesn’t give hospitalisation or mortality statistics: https://www.food.gov.uk/news-alerts/news/fsa-research-suggests-new-higher-estimates- for-the-role-of-food-in-uk-illness. We’d be glad to be corrected on this matter!