Submitted by the UK Association of Frozen
The UKAFFP is the representative organisation
for the manufacturers of frozen foods. The products of its members
cover all sectors of the food industry, including: meat, fish,
vegetables, potatoes, bakery products, ready meals, deserts and
The Association represents one of the largest
sectors of the food industry with a turnover at consumer values
of over £5 billion per annum.
As an all sector industry Association, the UKAFFP
takes a close interest in general food regulation and is especially
concerned, not only that the safety of its products should be
assured, but that consumers should be able to take such assurance
In support of this general objective, the advent
of the Food Standards Agency is welcomed and it is against the
background of this objective that we have tried to judge the Bill.
Our detailed comments follow the numerical references
and headings used in the draft Bill.
Clause 2: Appointment of members etc.
2. We welcome recognition of the need for "a
variety of skills and experience" among the members of the
Agency. We also note the reference to "experience in matters
relating to food safety or other interests of consumers in relation
to food". Whilst we understand that the primary purpose of
the Agency is "to protect the interests of consumers in relation
to food", it should be stressed that such interests include
the existence of an efficient and effective food industry devoted
to the provision of safe, palatable, nutritious and economical
foods; and that expertise among members of the Agency in the production
and delivery of such foods is important in relation to those interests.
Clause 4: Advisory Committees for Wales, Scotland
and Northern Ireland
1. It is evidently necessary to avoid differing
requirements in respect of food safety arising in the different
parts of the UK. We question whether it is a matter of statutory
necessity to appoint advisory committees for Wales, Scotland and
Northern Ireland. Perhaps it should be worded that: "there
may be established . . ." If it transpires that these simply
duplicate the discussion which otherwise takes place within the
devolved authorities or the Agency itself, they would become unnecessary.
Clause 6: Other Advisory Committees
We are concerned about the responsibility for
the existence and constitution of a number of important government
advisory committees (e.g., the FAC, the ACMSF and the ACMFP) moving
to the Agency which would be enabled to disband or reshape them
Clause 8: Annual and other reports
We made comment on the White Paper and would
repeat that formal annual reporting is inadequate; and that Parliament
should have the right to scrutinise the Agency's plans and performance
on an ongoing basis. This applies particularly to the need for
scrutiny of the Agency's activities under the functional headings
laid out in Clauses 9 and 10 (developing food policy and providing
information to the public). In particular, the Secretary of State
must be ultimately accountable for food safety and consumer policy.
Clause 9: Development of food policy and provision
of advice, etc., to public authorities
The Bill stipulates the Agency function of developing
policies and providing advice, but the Notes state that this function
will extend to a representational role "in relevant EU and
other international fora". Such representation goes well
beyond the development of policies and the provision of advice.
Dealings under Treaty obligations with International bodies must
in principle remain a function of a Department of State with responsibility
to Parliament. The ability of the Agency to engage in negotiations
in such dealings must be under clear and strict instructions.
Clause 10: Provision of advice, information and
assistance to other persons
"Ensuring that members of the public are
kept adequately informed . . . in respect of matters which . .
. affect their capacity to make informed decisions about food"
is evidently a key function of the Agency. It is implicit that
adequacy of information requires it to be objective and meaningful.
The Notes, which indicate in detail the means of giving such information,
should include an obligation to ensure that any such information
is both objective and meaningful.
Clause 11: Publication by the Agency of information
1. We welcome the ability of the Agency to publish
any advice it gives (subject to strict observance of confidentiality
where necessarysee below), but, if, as explained in the
Notes, Ministers must give their reasons when not accepting such
advice, it is necessary, by the token of fairness of debate, that
the Agency should give its reasons for giving such advice in the
2b. The "public interest" waiver for
the publication of confidential information should not be entirely
at the discretion of the Agency. There should be a stronger condition
for it to be "demonstrably in the public interest to do so".
Clause 12: Acquisition and review of information
We are concerned about the meaning of the references
to "diseases" and "the state of the environment".
Clause 13: Powers to carry out observations
7 and 8. We are concerned about the facility
granted to the Agency to "publish in such manner as it considers
appropriate any information obtained from observations carried
out". We would stress the importance for the Agency to take
account of the need for any information it publishes to be treated
impartially and in context.
It must also recognise that the responsibility
for the treatment of any such information, once outside its hands
and into those of the news media. is no longer its own and recent
experience shows how such information can be mistreated and misconstrued.
8. We would make the same comment here as on
Clause 14: Monitoring of enforcement action
1. Positive rather than negative measures should
be the indicators of performance: i.e., measures of compliance
rather than actions against non-compliance.
4b. We are very concerned that the Agency "may
publish [any] information . . . if it appears to the Agency to
be in the public interest to do so". There should be an obligation
on the Agency to balance any information of a speculative or less
than definitive nature which it chooses to publish, by allowing
equal access to comment from any party whose reputation or commercial
interest may be at stake.
Clause 15: Monitoring of enforcement action: specific
5b. We stress the need for confidentiality safeguards
and the protection of individual rights.
Clause 18: Statement of general objectives and
We very much welcome the requirement for the
Agency to publish a statement of objectives and general practices
(18(1)) and for such a statement to receive the approval of the
appropriate authorities. It should also be open for public consultation
(18(4)). We are pleased to see that the Bill reflects a point
made in our White Paper submissionof the need to make public
the reasons for Agency decisions. We would also stress the need
to communicate with the public about risk assessment (18(a)(c)).
The Agency should also be accountable for the
achievement of its objectives and compliance with its practices.
Clause 19: Consideration of objectives, risks,
costs, benefits, etc.
It is to be welcomed that the Agency will take
into account the "nature and magnitude of any risks to public
health" in relation to its decisions, but the derogation
from this obligation "to the extent that it is . . . impracticable"
(19(3)(a)) seems completely unnecessary. Risk management in public
health issues is of supreme importance and the matter of principle
should not be negotiable. Obviously, the way in which risk will
be taken into account will depend on the available knowledge,
but a lesser than full degree of knowledge does not grant indemnity
from the need to take risk into account in so far as it is known.
On the contrary, the Agency should be given a clear responsibility
to enhance the knowledge, management and communication of risk.
Anything less will not contribute to the improvement of consumer
confidence in food safety.
Clause 20: Directions relating to the implementation
of international obligations
We are very concerned about the reference to
"implementation [by the Agency] of any obligations of the
UK under the Community Treaties or any International Agreements".
Is it really the intention that the Agency should normally act
without Ministerial direction in these matters?
Implementation (of, e.g., EC Directives) frequently
carries with it an element of interpretation and possibly negotiation.
These are matters of Ministerial and ultimately Parliamentary
responsibility (see comments on Clause 9 above).
Clause 23: Levy on food premises (and Consultation
Paper on Levy Scheme)
We retain our conviction that, in principle,
the Agency should be financed from public funds. Our submission
on the White Paper said: "the argument for industry funding
has been made on the grounds that the industry should pay the
cost of meeting the needs of the consumer for safe, high quality
food. But, the industry already pays the costs of meeting these
requirements. It is not reasonable that they should also pay for
the formulation of the Regulations themselves or for their enforcement.
The costs of control and enforcement of regulatory provisions
have always been and should remain a matter for public funding".
Accordingly, we do not agree with this Clause in the Bill.
However, given its inclusion and the general
provision for levy funding, we would make the following points:
The provision for subscription to
the costs of enforcement authorities (23)(2)(c) is questionable
in principle. It also seems a dangerous precedent to offer such
an open ended commitment with no specification as to the type
of work or its cost, any level of which might be included in subsequent
There is no time limit specified
within which secondary regulations for levy should be reviewed
(23(3)(a)). The requirement in the separate levy proposals suggests
an initial period of three years. The primary legislation should
specify this maximum initial period and subsequent periods for
review at intervals not longer than three years.