Regulatory Outlook

Food Law | UK Regulatory Outlook November 2023

Published on 29th Nov 2023

FSA launches precision-bred organisms consultation | Government responds to committees disappointment on HFSS delay | FSA's annual report highlights resourcing challenges 

FSA launches consultation on proposals for a new framework in England for the regulation of precision-bred organisms used for food and animal feed

On 8 November, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) published a consultation on proposals for a new regulatory framework for the use of precision bred organisms (PBOs) for food and animal feed. The proposals include introducing a two-tiered regulatory approach for pre-market authorisation (see the previous Regulatory Outlook for more).

Tier 1 is for PBOs that are very similar to traditionally bred organisms, where the potential safety risks are understand and a bespoke safety assessment is therefore not required. This type of PBO would have a simpler route to market where a notification needs to be made to the FSA, and it would acknowledge receipt of the notification and provide a recommendation to the Secretary of State (SoS) that the PBO be authorised for use in food and feed.   

Tier 2 is for PBOs that have traits where further analysis of data is required. For example, where the PBO includes novelty or PBOs that have compositional changes which could affect toxicity, allergenicity, nutritional quality, or other safety concerns where potential food and feed safety risks need further consideration. These PBOs therefore require a bespoke safety assessment process. The first step would be an application to the FSA, which would then carry out a bespoke risk assessment. It would then provide a recommendation to the SoS that the PBO should either be authorised (with or without conditions of use) or not authorised for use in food/feed.

Under the proposed secondary legislation, the FSA would also introduce a public register for PBOs for food/feed that have received marketing authorisations and also provisions for enforcement of requirements under the new framework.

The consultation closes on Monday 8 January 2024.

Government responds to committees disappointment on HFSS delay

The government has published its response to the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee inquiry on food security. Within this, the committee outlined its disappointment on the delay of the introduction of the ban on volume price promotions of food high in fat, sugar and salt (HFSS) to October 2025.

The committee stated that it is "not convinced that the delay to banning certain volume price promotions for HFSS food will save consumers money" and called on the government to produce a detailed timetable on how the volume price promotion will impact consumers and businesses.

In its response, the government accepts that the delay will impact health as the restrictions "will result in additional years for the health benefits to start to accrue". However, the government still believed that the regulations around HFSS will have positive impacts in obesity in the long term.

Lastly, the committee also recommended that the government should publish a full impact assessment of the introduction of a sugar and salt reformulation tax. The government responded that it was not the "right time to introduce new taxes that will push up the cost of food".

FSA's annual report highlights resourcing challenges

The FSA and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) have published their annual "Our Food" report, which reviews food standards across the UK for 2022. The report highlights that there are shortages in key occupations needed to keep food safe. The FSA and FSS have called on the government, local authorities, professional bodies and industry to:

  • address the decline in local authority Trading Standards officers, Environmental Health and Food Law officers to ensure food standards are maintained;
  • tackle the shortage of Official Veterinarians to protect animal health and welfare and trade and assure food hygiene is maintained;
  • share more and better-quality information across the food industry to help stop criminal gangs and tackle food crime that costs the UK up to £2 billion per year; and
  • introduce import controls on food imported from the EU to help reduce the risk of unsafe food entering the UK from the EU.

Government does u-turn on food waste reporting by businesses

As reported in this earlier Regulatory Outlook, the government recently announced that it would not implement mandatory food waste reporting for large companies. The government has now, on 22 November, withdrawn this decision and has indicated that it is reconsidering whether food waste reporting should be made mandatory.

UK CAP publishes new rules on advertising of alcohol alternative products

Please see Advertising and marketing.  

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* This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.

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