Submitted by the Welsh Food Alliance
As an independent public health, public interest
organisation, we warmly welcome the Governments proposals for
an independent consumer-driven agency that has public health at
the heart of its programme. This is in line with other health
documents coming from government. Further comments will be made
following our FSA public consultation being held in Newport, on
20 March 1999. In supporting the proposed function and structure
of a Food Standards Agency (FSA) we very much welcome:
opportunities presented by the Government's
commitment to devolved governance to the English regions, spawning
equivalent structures to the Welsh FSA Commission, and regional
English counterparts to the Welsh Food Alliance;
further detailed consultation concerning
the interface between the FSA, the Welsh Health Division of the
Assembly, and public health/public interest groups in Wales;
a UK Agency with national representation,
and where consumer and public interest representation is in the
majority at territorial and UK levels;
separate territorial Commissions
being established to advise upon issues of particular significance
to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the UK Agency advising
devolved forms of governance in the constituent parts of the UK;
involving the consumer, with a clearly
open structure, that is responsive to constitutional changes,
yet operating directly in response to the UK Parliament, with
a transparent transnational UK Council of Ministers;
food safety being dealt within the
broader context of public health, nutrition, including the needs
of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, and the national curriculum;
the establishment of a Non-Departmental
Public Body (NDPB) with aims and structure based upon the best
available characteristics of all models;
its fundamental aim of re-establishing
public confidence in UK mechanisms for handling food problems
within a three year time span;
action to empower consumers that
could inspire and facilitate the cultural transformation required
to achieve public confidence in the food chain, and best value
in health promotion;
that such measures could help overcome
the loss of public confidence in the government's public health
role, and help reduce societal health inequalities.
This will contribute to improvement of health
which requires urgent attention given the scale of existing problems,
as outlined in "Better HealthBetter Wales".
1. European Food and Nutrition Policy, and
Food Law: Welsh consumers can be assisted in this task by
providing them with a capacity to independently monitor, evaluate,
and lobby for change at the European level. Part of the FSA levy
should be used for this purpose. For example, the 1997 Green Paper
on the "General Principles of Food Law in the European Union",
concerns food law. It is essential that this is based upon future
food policy, but it does not do so. A legal system cannot be developed
if one is unsure about the objectives. The current narrow focus
has the practical effect of excluding social, ecological, human
resource, vocational training, schools curricula and other matters,
and does not allow joined up solutions to joined up problems.
2. Food Industry European Human Resource
Strategy: Ensuring that the risk assessment HACCP system works
correctly is a key public health issue, that may have equal significance
to establishing a UK FSA. This is because it addresses the cause
of problems, rather than inspecting them after the event. We emphasise
that the special character of the food sector and consequent very
high health and safety requirements necessitate special measures
and requirements regarding the training of those who are responsible
for the production and sale of foodstuffs. Such essential preventative
health and safety measures will also contribute to the reassurance
of consumers regarding food safety, and food hygiene.
3. EU standards for regulatory, and industry
supervisory/manager food hygiene training: A common EU standards
for regulatory, and industry supervisory and manager food hygiene
training does not exist, yet this is essential for the completion
of the single market, public health, and consumer protection.
With current proposals for EU enlargement, the argument for an
EU standard for food hygiene training, testing and certification,
as is the case in the USA, becomes overwhelming. This is blocked
by the European Commission's insistence on subsidiarity whilst
failing to recognise this as an essential precondition for completion
of the single market. MAFF objections that a prescriptive approach
would be impractical, contrasts with the World Health Organisation's
(1992) recommendations that clearly underlines the importance
of training for the effective operation of HACCP systems as recommended
by CODEX. It is an official position that many have some difficulty
in understanding. Attempts to assure quality through ISO 9000,
are insufficient. If requested we are able to provide sample US
Food and Drug Administration manuals for both industry and regulatory
HACCPS training programmes. We would expect the FSA to have an
active role in these matters. At Appendix 1 we list questions
yet to be answered by the European Commission.
4. The Welsh Assembly information services:
Unfortunately, the Assembly, as legislator, will be dependent
upon the executive for its information services. Some of our recommendations
our proposals will have great relevance both now and in the future,
and may help redress this imbalance, and contribute to clarifying
the relationship between the FSA, and the Health Department in
Wales. It is regretted that the existing UK National Food Survey
is quite misleading in that it poorly represents the experiences
of low income groups, and does not include the steadily increasing
proportion of food eaten outside the home. Nor does it provide
evidence that could measure change required at a local level,
in terms of the consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables. In
Wales, we need to establish base line data on food consumption
patterns, so that we can measure the effectiveness of strategies
to change behaviour in specified target populations.
5. The Welsh AssemblyPublic Pressure:
The pressure of public opinion and public interest bodies often
appears to be the strongest driving force to guarantee that all
necessary measures to protect public health are effectively taken.
The new Assembly will have an important role in enabling citizens
of Wales to improve food policies and practices, that enhance
public health, improve the working and the living environment.
This role can best be achieved by ensuring that resources are
available to support Welsh based research, and community based
initiatives which are able to identify and respond to particular
consumer concerns. This research will need to focus upon the wider
determinants of health, including the inter play of factors between
income, access, transport price, availability, skills, and confidence.
This is required to stimulate consumer involvement, educate policy
makers, and trigger change in relevant policies. This capacity
to develop relevant policies can best be achieved through the
management and control of resources, in partnership with other
Welsh institutions, combined with appropriate relations with similar
bodies, in other parts of the UK. Government's £20 million
Welsh Healthy Living Centre programme will be able to support
many new ideas and food policies, and the Welsh Assembly should
use its powers to specify the proportion of Lottery funds to be
ear marked for this purpose, and ensure the effectiveness of monitoring
and evaluation arrangements in empowering poor consumers.
6. FSA Levy: The FSA £90 levy is
obviously regressive, and will adversely affect small rural and
valley food shops, and increase food costs for those experiencing
food poverty. We obviously need a simple administrative mechanism
to redress this. One possible solution is that food retail premises
below 12,000 square feet should only pay the flat rate tax every
other year, with a proportionate increase for larger operations.
However, we need a generic mechanism that could equally apply
to a diversity of catering operations. A case can be made to exempt
local charitable non profit distributing organisations established
for community benefit. The current position means that community
food initiatives, local voluntary food co-operatives, will pay
a levy whereas Womens Institute catering activity will be exempt.
We propose that the Welsh Assembly should revise the Food Premises
(Registration) Regulations 1991 so these activities, and bona
fide local consumer and producer markets are exempt as part
of government's social exclusion policy, in specified areas of
7. Food law enforcement: In terms of
FSA draft legislationsection 14Environmental Health
Officers (EHOs) are essential for consistent food safety enforcement.
We see the need to ring fence money available for this purpose.
This is important with small unitary authorities, who may have
non food specialists heading a generic local authority department.
As in Birmingham, specialist EHO resources need to be directed
at food law enforcement. This is supported by a recent Audit Commission
advice on performance indicators.
8. FSA Levy expenditure principles: One
key principle concerns prevention, including consumer and public
interest research and representation. They should be applied to
the expenditure of FSA levy income in dealing with basic problems
before they arise. For example, we need effective action by schools
and industry. Much of the £1.5 million to be collected in
Wales would be more sustainable, and effectively spent on education
and training. Therefore careful consideration will need to be
given, to explicitly building principles into the FSA primary
legislation, about how this money can be spent strategically from
consumer and public health perspectives. Currently, the UK Minister
refers to the use of levy expenditure in terms of "environmental
services", but in our view this narrow definition needs extending
to support a more joined up approach to government, that explicitly
includes public health. This could then enable a more strategic
approach in the application of secondary legislation within the
9. UK National Curriculum: Low priority
is given to teaching food skills within the UK National Curriculum.
For example, inadequate time is available in schools for this
purpose, and this is reflected in poor school practices. This
has serious implications for health and future eating patterns.
The Welsh Assembly, will clearly have the power to make food and
nutrition skills a compulsory part of the National Curriculum
at Key Stage 3, so that young people can prepare good safe food.
Primary legislation could provide a coherent framework for this
10. Vocational Training: Since more people
are eating out, vocational training is of supreme importance to
industry employees, especially managers and supervisors, where
food hygiene certification has declined in recent years. (See
the authors published evidence in the House of Commons Agriculture
Select Committee Report on Food Safety, April 1998). Essential
control measures can only record breaches of the law. In many
cases these transgressions can be found in insufficient, or non-existent
workforce training and qualifications. We agree with the UK Food
Minister that training is a key aspect of public health policy.
However this is not reflected in any changes proposed by government.
A strategic fault line in drafting the FSA legislation concerns
a failure by officials to understand and act upon the significance
of industry human resources, for example, in avoiding food borne
illness. The proposed legislation fails to reflect this, and does
not take responsibility for the Health Departments neglected role
in terms of food hygiene training, or the NVQ occupational standards
setting role of DfEEthat is essentially driven by trade
interests. This is significant, not only because of (2) and
(3) above, but because of the worrying decline in the level and
quality of training, for example, in the catering sector, arising
from price competition and cost pressures, and management cost
cutting. If necessary the FSA levy should be increased, with
this being injected back into industry through Further Education
Funding Councils, via Celtic block grants, and English RDAs. But
this must be part of government's equity and life long learning
strategy, given current industry trends that deskill labour, the
high numbers of 16 to 24-year-old employees, and a large proportion
of marginal female workers.
11. UK Food hygiene training standards:
Important changes are required in the way in which food hygiene
training is designed, delivered and assessed through our NVQ system.
Should we require all publicly funded food hygiene trainingdelivered
within NVQ programmesto be externally verified, and not
internally by employers, as is currently the case. Occupational
standards and training are currently a DfEE responsibility. It
is recommended that Welsh funding mechanisms may be able to address
this issue. In Wales we propose that every person leaving school
should be trained and certificated to a basic six hour level of
12. Legislative Process: Agreement will
be sought for the FSA legislation from devolved government in
Scotland, N Ireland, and Wales. It is suggested that in each Assembly/Parliament
within the UK should establish a select committee to review this
legislation, and in doing so they should identify key questions
in actively seeking evidence from the public, consumer and voluntary
organisations. These arrangements will be essential to ensure
that consumer and public health representations are properly heard,
and acted upon. In Wales we believe that this will allow possibilities
for distinctive policies, but this will also require effective
lobbying, and alliances, at the European Level, including worker,
consumer, and environmental interests.
These recommendations will enable distinctive
Welsh policies to emerge, that will contribute to consumer protection,
community development, and improved public health, particularly
in respect of food and nutrition, occupational health, food safety,
and food hygiene within a EU and UK strategy, and policy framework.
(i) Food is clearly a major determinant of
good health. We are all consumers, not by choice but need. We
all eat food, and therefore improved consumer democracy and public
policy would potentially benefit everyone in Wales. Our detailed
comments flow from this premise.
(ii) Food spans many aspects of government:
education, employment, health, social security, heritage, tourism,
consumer, trade, transport, environment, public health, and even
(iii) In all the detailed comments and planning
for the Assembly and its structure, food policy and food poverty
receive scant attention. Regrettably, food is clustered with producer
interests, rather than public health.
The Agency and Wales
(iv) The Food Standards Agency (FSA) could
be a reality by September 2000. It will be a formidable quango
responsible for developing, implementing and synchronising UK
wide food policy and standards. It will drive much secondary legislation.
If the Assembly is to be an active participant it will need to
develop a role in communicating and consulting on a wider remit
than FSA policy and proposed structures, and involve the public
in this process. The voluntary sector will have an important role
in this process.
(v) The Agency would act as the focus for
the development of food policy, but would not necessarily undertake
all such policy development and implementation. It will need to
develop an effective presence in Wales to support local authority
surveillance, and the food law enforcement process. Additional
staff will be required at different levels to achieve this objective.
(vi) The Chief Medical Officer for Health
in Wales should have a greater profile, with a good deal of emphasis
on monitoring and annually reporting, with recommendations on
the nutritional needs of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
(vii) Will the Assembly have a distinctive
view? FSA is to be part funded by a licence fee. How will this
impact upon small rural and valley food outlets? How will it listen
to and support Welsh consumers, respond to equality priorities,
address food hygiene and national curricula issues, and the McDonaldisation
of employment and training?
(viii) The James report correctly states
"international experience demonstrates that there is a need
for instituting substantial structural and cultural change in
government before public opinion begins to shift". In our
view this equally applies at local, regional, national, and UK
levels. This will be a critical pre-condition for regaining public
confidence. All tiers of UK governance have an important role
in facilitating the Agency's work.
(ix) From consumer participation and representation
perspectives it will clearly be unsatisfactory if "top down"
UK methods, are replaced by officialdom at national, regional
and local levels.
(x) A centrally co-ordinated approach will
be important in ensuring that people in Wales fully benefit from
exposure to a range of consumer activities, and culturally different
practices from other parts of the UK.
(xi) We assume that pan UK co-ordination
will presumably take place through a Council of Ministers. It
will be important in developing and maintaining consumer confidence
that such arrangements are transparent.
(xii) Secrecy is an important form of regulation.
If the Assembly has a Freedom of Information policy, how far will
this extend into our secretive UK and EU executive. Will it be
able to act with speed to promote public health? Can this be supported
by active consumer and public interest groups?
(xiii) The UK Food Survey inadequately represents
the experiences of low income groups. To address health inequalities
we need to establish base line data on food consumption patterns,
so that we can measure the effectiveness of Welsh strategies.
(xiv) Affordability and accessibility of
food are key consumer issues. They clearly require local investigation
if official health targets are to be achieved. Success also requires
that people are empowered and actively involved in changing deep
seated attitudes related to the value of food and improved health
(see recommendation 3).
(xv) Official health promotion initiatives
are frequently set up by medically dominant health professional.
This approach often undermines their success because they are
detached from the experiences of people within the wider community.
Assembly policy should be sustainable and invest in people; and
should not parachute solutions, but involve communities. Develop
open, informed and integrated approaches; and ensure policies
really work for the poorest neighbourhoods (see recommendation
(xvi) If the Assembly is to rely upon existing
officials where will the new thinking come from to inspire and
facilitate the cultural transformation required to achieve public
confidence in the food chain, and best value in health promotion?
(xvii) Welsh Ministers strongly support community
development. Will future health promotion arrangements understand
the process and practicalities involved? Why have officials to
be persuaded, when their Scottish counterparts champion this process
with great success?
(xviii) The Welsh NHS has no experience of
community development. How will food and nutrition, and public
participation be integrated into the planning and evaluation of
Health Improvement Programmes, and yet be community driven is
an important issue that must be resolved, and we meet with Welsh
Office officials shortly to consider this issue.
(xiv) Different activities should be linked,
for example, a community garden with a cafe; an organic allotment
to a local pre school playgroup or a school; food co-operatives
to low income, housing and community groups; school initiatives
with local retailers. We should not see the familiar fragmented
medically driven approach to health promotion if we are to achieve
(xv) Government's £20 million Welsh
Healthy Living Centre programme will be able to support many new
ideas and food policies in Wales, and the Welsh Assembly should
specify the proportion of Lottery funds to be earmarked for this
(xvi) The Welsh Assembly should radically
change our public health strategy framework so that community
development is placed at the heart of public health policy and
strategy, with this being supported by the Wales NHS research
and development budget.
(xvii) These issues will need to be closely
monitored by the Assembly to ensure best value, and this will
require public participation. This should be undertaken by select
committee inquiries with evidence based approaches related to
local knowledge and experience.
Public interest representation
(xviii) The potential for realising consumer
involvement at all stages of the decision-making process is a
critical feature of rebuilding consumer confidence in the food
industry. The National Consumer Council are to be congratulated
for advocating this view.
(xix) Government, whether at local, regional,
national, or supra-national levels has an important part to play
in this process. Existing public information and education arrangements
are inadequate means of coping with the public's crisis of confidence
in government to handle food issues.
(xx) The James report accurately analyses
that "there is a need to explore further . . . public involvement
in food policy which is currently very `top down'". Apart
from Freedom of Information legislation, this is a major means
for restoring lost public confidence in Governments ability to
handle food problems.
(xxi) James states there may well be extensive
networks of people involved in food initiatives who could be involved
in a dialogue with the proposed Agency on food issues. No reference
is made to the citizens role as "worker" and "manager"
in the industry. Active citizenship requires a combination of
(xxii) From a consumer perspective public
involvement should not be limited to feeding concerns and ideas
to the Agency, since this may not realise the full potential of
consumer involvement. Consumers require structures and organisations
to do this.
(xxiii) If confidence building measures are
to be achieved consumers must not be treated as an adjunct to
the Agency. Consumer and public interest groups will need to develop
their own support networks. In part this will require indirect
public support. Tax relief should be available to bona fide
non charitable public interest food and health organisations.
(xxiv) The James report calls for "adequate
and innovative mechanisms for consumer and public interest"
(at page 31). In this context, it will be necessary to support
the capacity of consumers and voluntary organisations in Wales
(and elsewhere) to:
influence policy, and shape legislation;
take a shared responsibility for
public information and education; and
to utilise community and co-operative
development models to promote good food and nutrition initiatives
for low income groups, as in urban and rural areas of Scotland.
(xxv) The Welsh Food Alliance have produced
a 10 year action plan that will focus upon inequalities in access
in terms of affordability and availability; the effects of declining
standards of living upon children, the food habits of the long-term
unemployed, and low income families; the elderly, especially those
living alone; the long-term disabled; the absence of work whether
paid, or otherwise, in terms of community cohesion, as an impediment
to improved diet; the role of schools in equipping young people
to eat healthier food; and diet and nutrition in residential homes.
We are shortly meeting with Welsh Office Health Officials and
hope for a positive outcome. David Smith acts as an advisor
to the European Food Committee of the International Union of Food
Workers. Part of this paper is drawn from briefing material prepared
for an EU Food Policy seminar later this year. The evidence complements
previous evidence submitted by the author, and published in a
UK Agriculture Select Committee's Fourth Report on Food Safety
Volume II, Appendix 84, April 1998.
1. Would they agree that:
(a) the broader strategic issues of training
and development are a key aspect of public health policy, given
the critical lag between general food regulation, and a rapidly
expanding dynamic trade in foodstuffs;
(b) from a public health and consumer confidence
perspective, the absence of adequate EU training standards obstructs
the completion of inter state trade in foodstuffs;
(c) the above will have increased prominence
in the context of EU enlargement in central and eastern Europe;
(d) an EU Standard of training is a practical
means of ensuring fair and safe food trade, given the increasing
emphasis placed upon HACCPS globally;
(f) securing an effective regulatory framework
for training is a critical test for restoring consumer confidence,
which may then allow simplification and rationalisation of Community
(e) the significance of regulating, monitoring
and evaluating training is that it is one of the few practical
measures available to government to ensure industry compliance
with HACCPs principles and applications;
(g) food hygiene training, certification
and validation should include a managers ability to effectively
control and cascade training throughout the operation;
(h) standardisation of training, certification
and validation should equally applies to those employed to provide
official public health inspection and control services in all
(i) that there is an increasing propensity
for advanced industrialised nations to import foodstuffs from
less developed countries.
(j) public health standards in each EU state
will increasingly depend upon private sector HACCPS, external
to the EU, with the possibility of (i) less rigorous public inspection,
and control, and (ii) much less developed national publicly financed
education and training systems supportive of public health policies;
(k) only through a coherent approach to establishing
EU standards will it be possible to assure consumers in the enlarged
European Market, of the integrity of internal and external market
standards for foodstuffs, and the consistent achievement of public
health rules at the point of production;
(l) there appears to be little evidence that
industry HACCP systems are in place?
2a. Although the Commission emphasises the benefits
of non prescriptive approaches to training, has consideration
been given to the prescriptive position taken by the World Health
Organisation (1992). (b) In what sense has this been taken into
account in the EU's policy approach?
3. If there is widespread agreement that HACCPS
is central to food safety why does the USA, the originator of
HACCPS, have in certain respects a prescriptive approach to training
in its application of: (a) industry and (b) regulatory HACCPS,
whilst the EU does not?
4. In terms of HACCPS principles and applications,
what significance is given to the full commitment and involvement
of the work force as an essential element for effective industry
implementation of HACCPS?
5. Apart from the ambiguity of draft Article
6 (5)* in Commission Working Document (Proposed General Food Directive
VI/8765/96 rev. 2) does the Commission agree that the current
wording is insufficiently supportive of any public health ambition
to make industry HACCPS principles and applications consistent
and effective within the completion of the single market? *see
6. What consideration has been given to establishing
European standards of training in the context of Community enlargement?
7. Given the extent to which young people, females,
and part time workers are employed in a diverse food industry,
and the current negative features of different labour markets
in terms of equity strategy and life long learning, would the
Commission welcome an urgent EU study on these issues?
8. Apart from effective official control systems,
would the Commission agree that the main guardian of consumer
confidence in the food chain is often workers within particular
sectors of industry who are aware of food safety and food hygiene
problems and opportunities for improvement?
9. That there is often an interrelationship
with (8) above, and occupational health and safety in the work
10. Therefore what co-operation is required
between workers, regulators and consumer interests in order to
have confidence in the industry?
11. Given the importance of reporting practices
which are detrimental to food safety and food hygiene can be easily
reported by workers, what procedures should be put in place for
this to occur, for example, establishing hotlines?
12. Would the Commission agree that:
(i) Increasing numbers of food companies
are inserting "confidentiality clauses" in contracts
which forbid food workers from speaking to people outside the
company on public health matters of concern to them?
(ii) If this is correct what basic human
rights does this infringe?
(b) When such confidentiality clauses relate
to health and safety, food hygiene and food safety should they
(c) When workers faced with situations as
at (a) should they receive special legal protection against dismissal,
any other form of disciplinary action, or intimidation?
13. So that practices which are detrimental
to food safety and food hygiene can be easily reported by workers,
what procedures should be established for this purpose, for example,
The owner or manager of the establishment shall
apply or organise a continuous training programme for staff adapted
to the production system and enabling them to comply with the
particular conditions of hygienic production, except for staff
who already have an appropriate qualification. The competent authority
responsible for the establishment shall be associated with the
design and implementation of this programme or, when an existing
programme is involved, with its implementation.