The government has only now asked the Food Standards Agency to plan how it is going to protect public health and safety after Brexit – almost six months after the transition period for leaving the EU ended.
Recently published FSA documents reveal: “Cabinet Office has requested that the FSA is able to demonstrate a clear plan by October 2021 to reduce the risk of dependency on a single market supplier.”
It comes after the Private Eye has been reporting over the last few months that the FSA is overly-reliant on a single supplier.
But the supplier, Leeds-based Eville & Jones GB Ltd, which has a monopoly contract for “official controls” in Britain’s abattoirs and other “approved meat establishments”, has a track record of ‘questionable practices’ – the magazine has said.
It continues by saying the “refusal” to plan for the end of the transition period is “its greatest failing”.
There is now a shortage of vets to provide export health certificates.
But FSA has finally stepped in and promised an overhaul which could see the inspection of meat establishments moving away “from the existing, FSA-controlled, largely ‘one size fits all’ model”.
The meat industry allegedly welcomes the plan but does not have much faith it will be delivered any time soon.
Australia trade deal
The news come as Australia’s trade minister may walk away from a controversial free trade agreement with the UK, according to reports in The Guardian that agricultural exporters there are demanding more access to the British market.
Last month, Boris Johnson’s spokesman refused to promise a UK ban on hormone-injected beef will be maintained.
This is worrying the National Farmers’ Union and 19 farming groups slammed a potential agreement which could give Australia a zero-tariff, zero quota trade deal.
National Farmers’ Union (NFU) president Minette Batters highlighted the importance of government safeguards towards food standards. In the light of the UK-Australia talks, she said: “There is a very real risk that, if we get it wrong, UK farming will suffer irreversible damage rather than flourish in the way we all desire, to the detriment of our environment, our food security and our rural communities.”
Batters added: “The British government faces a choice. It must recognise that opening up zero tariff trade on all imports of products such as beef and lamb means British farming, working to its current high standards, will struggle to compete.
“Does Government lower standards here, which it says it won’t and a million people who signed our petition don’t want to see, or will it watch family farms go out of business when they are unable to compete?
“At a time when government has placed huge importance on its aim of levelling up, this would fundamentally undermine any ambition to narrow the rural-urban divide or to ensure all parts of the UK are included in the government’s desire to build back in the months ahead.”