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What Happens to Food Hygiene Legislation after BREXIT?

A significant proportion of legislation in the UK surrounding food hygiene originates from law created by the European Union. These laws and regulations stipulate legal requirements that all businesses within the food services industry must comply with. The most well known regulation is the legal obligation that food businesses must implement a comprehensive food hygiene management system based around the HACCP guidelines. However, following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union in June 2016, questions have been asked about whether this legislation will continue to be enforced and if not, what will replace it. Now that Article 50 has been triggered, the UK will enter into extensive negotiations with the EU. As a result there has been a considerable amount of speculation about what will happen to food hygiene laws when the UK officially departs the European Union in March 2019.

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Uncertainty on the Business Front

Businesses in the food industry are unsure about what implications Brexit will have and what guidelines that they will have to follow. Will the existing legislation continue to apply? Or will it be amended or omitted entirely? Only time will tell. Early indications show that there will be very little or no change in the guidelines.

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A Changing in HACCP Principles?

Within the UK it is well known that food hygiene has to be carefully managed using the HACCP system, and it is very unlikely that this will change once the UK leave the EU. The HACCP guidance was introduced to the UK on the 01st January 2006. It was a specific piece of legislation that specified all food businesses must establish and implement food hygiene programmes which are based around the seven principles of HACCP. This guidance is not just a European approach to food hygiene, it is one that is adopted worldwide, so leaving the EU will have little impact.

Since 1995, businesses who work within food hygiene have been legally obliged to carry out a hazard analysis. HACCP is widely known, understood and effective for businesses, caterers, retailers, distributors and manufacturers. Furthermore, the regulations stipulate clear expectations about what is acceptable in the industry and it is unlikely that the legislation will be repealed once we have left the EU.

Life after the EU?

When the negotiations turn to food hygiene legislation, many aspects of EU law will be simply transferred into UK law. This is because they provide a sound framework on which to build food hygiene principles. There may be some product specific regulations which require amendment but manufacturers will still need to ensure full and consistent compliance with packaging and labelling guidelines which have been specified by the EU if they wish to export their produce.

As already discussed, most of the food hygiene laws that are applicable in the UK today are from the European Union. When the UK leaves the EU and if they want to join the EEA, the majority of laws which apply to food businesses today will not change after Brexit. If however, the UK decided on another arrangement, they would not have to comply with food hygiene laws specified by the EU.

Depending on which route the UK takes, a dual regulation system may need to be established which will apply to UK products which are produced for EU export and a separate system of regulation created specifically for products to be manufactured and distributed throughout the UK.

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The impact of BREXIT on Food Hygiene

Listed below are a few noticeable changes which you may find when we officially leave the european union…

Regulation

A major area of concern surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU is the potential removal of regulation that surrounds food safety including the Microbiological Criteria Regulation and the Food Contaminants Regulations. The current legislation safeguards consumers from unsafe food that originates from the European Commission. However, when the UK leave the EU, the current regulations that govern food hygiene will offer no legal protection against contaminated food until Parliament formulate some new laws.

Creation of new Rules

The development of new laws and regulations is likely to take some time to draft and implement, leaving many wondering what they will do in the meantime. British food businesses who export their produce to the EU will still have to comply with the various laws and regulations but there may be some unscrupulous producers who may start to cut corners in the domestic market knowing that they will not face any legal penalties if something were to go wrong. In addition this period of uncertainty could put consumers at risk from those businesses who do not continue to fully comply with the old regulations until new guidelines are established.

EU Funded Research

There is also a question of EU funded research. Although the UK has experienced many years of extensive budget cuts across all sectors, the UK science industry is still strong and scientific institutions play a crucial role in many research and development projects which are entirely funded from the European Union. This is particularly the case when discussing matters of food hygiene. Although we will belong to a non-member state of the EU, this does not mean that access to funding is impossible, it will just make it more difficult for research organisations and universities to access funding so they can compete with the likes of the Netherlands, France and Germany to acquire funding to complete research projects.

Cost Cutting at the Expense of Food Hygiene

Once the EU regulations no longer apply, this provides an opportunity for larger businesses to cut corners and reduce costs. In doing so there is a very real risk that consumers are placed at risk from substandard food hygiene practices.

Final Thoughts

Brexit could pose a major threat to food hygiene standards with widespread deregulation of the food market which is causing major concern. However the UK government have been quick to state that there will be no substantial shift in hygiene regulations and the majority of EU laws will continue to apply because they will be transferred into UK law once the two year negotiation period is over. If you would like to learn more about Food Hygiene and the importance of Food Safety in the workplace then take a look at our range of courses which we offer.

Further Reading

 

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