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Repealing EU laws poses ‘significant risk’ to food standards, says watchdog

Food Standards Scotland has warned the Bill would remove consumer protections relating to food that have existed in the UK for many years (Aaron Chown/PA)
Food Standards Scotland has warned the Bill would remove consumer protections relating to food that have existed in the UK for many years (Aaron Chown/PA)

Scottish consumers have been cautioned over the potential for “major” impacts on food safety and standards if legislation on retained EU law is progressed in its current form.

Food Standards Scotland (FSS) issued the warning after Thursday’s publication of the Retained EU Law (Reform and Revocation) Bill in the House of Commons.

The Bill, announced in January, was introduced to assist in the easier amendment, replacement and repeal of retained EU law.

But it would also result in the removal of consumer protections relating to food which have existed in Scotland and the rest of the UK for “many years”, the FSS said.

Currently, retained EU law requires businesses to provide clear information on their food, as well as labels for allergens.

The use of decontaminants on meat, such as chlorine washes on chicken, is restricted, and there are maximum permitted levels of chemical contaminants in food set.

The law also requires businesses to maintain minimum levels of hygiene, including the recalling of food deemed unsafe.

The FSS is now calling for action to be taken before December 31 2023, when the safeguards are to disappear.

Heather Kelman, FSS chair, said: “At the heart of what we do is our responsibility to protect Scottish consumers.

“This Bill, as it currently stands, poses a significant risk to Scotland’s ability to uphold the high safety and food standards which the public expects and deserves.

“Much of the legislation which could be repealed as a result of the sun-setting clause has been developed over the course of decades and with significant UK input and influence.

“It exists to ensure consumer safety through the protection of the most vulnerable and ensuring the food and feed which is on the market is safe.

“This Bill could lead to a significant hole where consumer protections sit. The purpose of regulators and regulations, especially in relation to food, is to protect consumers.

“This Bill confuses red tape with consumer protection and indicates that the latter is now less of a priority and of less importance than when we were in the EU.

“Whichever way consumers voted on Brexit, they did not vote for a race to the bottom of lower standards and a de-regulated landscape that reduces consumer protection.”