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Law firm welcomes simplification of food regulations

By Anthony Fletcher , 20-Mar-2006

Owen Warnock, partner and food law expert at law firm Eversheds, believes that UK plans to simplify the regulation and legislation of the food industry are to be welcomed.

He warned however that unless similar action was taken at the EU level, initiatives from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) would be wasted.

"Food law is an incredibly complicated area for businesses to have to deal with, causing unnecessary complication and uncertainty, " said Warnock.

 

"However, the FSAs bid to tackle the issue with its draft Simplification Plan, along with moves by the EU to do the same, may lead to some improvement and can only be good news for businesses.

 

"Whether these steps will quite be effective enough to save the millions of pounds a year that the FSA claims, remains to be seen."

 

Warnock believes that the new alternative approach to hygiene risks for small food businesses called Safer Food Better Business is a good example of the positive measures that have been suggested by the FSA. This approach uses a simplified and straightforward risk assessment method to enable businesses to assess and control risks under the EU food hygiene legislation, without the complications usually associated with a traditional Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point system.

 

Another welcome initiative relates to bottled water.

 

"The existing UK legislation which is entirely derived from Europe, is difficult to follow and throws up regular queries with which producers, retailers and enforcement authorities struggle to deal," said Warnock.

 

"The FSA is proposing to consolidate the legislation in this area into one set of regulations and provide accompanying guidance. This would be a very welcome move and is a model that could be used for simplifying other areas of legislation relating to food and drink."

 

While measures like this are good news, Warnock believes that there are still major barriers to achieving much progress with simplification. Most of these issues stem from the fact that the most complicated areas of law are governed by direct European Union regulations.

 

"It is hard to see how much the FSA can achieve without action from the EU," he said.

 

Nonetheless, Warnock believes that the early signs are promising, with the EU making attempts to simplify its own regulations.

 

"For example, two of the simplification measures put forward by the FSA in its recently-published plan are actually derived from the EU. These include steps to clarify various pieces of legislation on contaminants in food such as mycotoxins and pesticides, as well as the European consolidation of two directives dealing with epoxy derivatives in food packaging.

 

"There is still a long way to go and the good news is that the FSA plans to review its simplification plan on an annual basis we can only hope the EU will continue to take a similar approach."