Documents to download

Food safety law in the UK includes both domestic legislation and directly applicable EU legislation. The central UK legislation governing food safety is the Food Safety Act 1990, and the general principles and requirements of EU food law are contained in Regulation (EC) 178/2002, known as the General Food Law Regulation. Other directly applicable EU regulations concern, inter alia, food labelling, ingredients and residue limits, food hygiene and organic status. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, currently progressing through Parliament, would preserve all existing EU legislation in UK law so that “as a general rule, the same rules and laws will apply on the day after the UK leaves the EU as before”.

Food safety regulation and enforcement takes place at both an EU and national level. A large proportion of food safety risk assessment is carried out by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Once risk has been assessed, decisions about how to manage risk are taken by the European Commission and the Council of the European Union, acting on proposals by the Commission. Other bodies, such as the European Union Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, also play a role in maintaining food standards. The UK’s Food Standards Agency governs food safety in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by proposing regulation and legislation, supervising enforcement and running communications campaigns.

After the UK leaves the EU, it will cease to automatically be a part of ESFA and other EU food safety bodies. In a recent statement, the Government said that “options for the future of risk assessment and scientific advice in the UK are currently being developed by the Government […] Requirements will depend on the nature of the relationship the UK has with the European Food Safety Authority once the UK leaves the EU”. The European Union (Withdrawal) Bill would give ministers the power to transfer the functions of EU authorities to UK public authorities.

Concerns have been expressed that the UK’s animal welfare standards in food production could be compromised in order to achieve free trade agreements; for example, witnesses to the House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee highlighted areas in which US standards diverge from EU standards. However, in evidence to the same Committee, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Michael Gove, stated that there were certain food standards on which the UK would not compromise.


Documents to download

Related posts

  • The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, delivered a spending review statement on 25 November 2020. The Government said the review’s priorities were “to support the Government’s response to Covid-19, invest in the UK’s recovery and deliver on promises to the British people”. Alongside the spending review, the Office for Budget Responsibility set out its latest forecasts for the economy and for the public finances.

  • The regulation of organic products, and of genetically modified organisms, is based on EU law. The European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 brings this EU law into UK statute, so that it will continue to have effect after the end of the transition period. Amendments since have ensured that the retained law refers to the UK system, not the EU. However, under the Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland will remain subject to the EU’s laws. This article looks at two statutory instruments that further amend the 2019 regulations so that they refer only to Great Britain, enabling Northern Ireland to continue to meet EU law.