• Lydia Gerratt

Does the Government care about UK food standards?

Government throws out standards amendment to Agriculture Bill

This is massively disappointing - the UK government has voted AGAINST an amendment to the UK's agricultural bill (13th May 2020) that would have guaranteed that standards of food and drink imported into the UK (under a free trade agreement) post-Brexit must be as high as, or higher than, standards under UK law relating to; animal welfare, protection of the environment, food safety, hygiene and traceability, and plant health.

Why would we want to erode decades of dramatic improvements to food safety, hygiene and traceability for our UK consumers, our world class animal welfare, or our ongoing work to protect our environment and plant health by advertising to the world that we are happy to import food and drink produced to much lower standards?

I have worked in the food industry for over 25 years and never in that time has any part of the food chain, from farm through to manufactured products, thought it would be a good idea to reduce standards, everyone always strives for better. Most importantly, over the last few decades, UK consumers have become more demanding and knowledgeable about the quality of the food they want to buy. Price is always a concern for consumers, but it is not the only factor in their decision to purchase; quality as determined by food safety, animal welfare and protection of the environment form a large part of the purchase decision. I know this from my time as a Food Buyer for nearly 19 years analysing customer purchasing decisions and developing food products with UK and international businesses to sell to an ever more engaged UK consumer.

I understand that the UK-US trade negotiation is complex and our world class UK food standards are seen by some as an obstacle to achieving a free trade agreement. However, I can categorically say that from my work in international trade over the past few years with food businesses from advanced, developing and emerging countries that the one thing these international food businesses have in common is that they ASPIRE to the very high food standards we work to in the UK. These countries are just as passionate as we are in the UK to develop their food standards, protect animal welfare and work to continually improve their environment - it's a myth to think that high standards in food cause division and scupper deals, the reverse is true, we work closer and better together to achieve a common goal in improving our standards. I've done this for 19 years as a Food Buyer and 6 years as an international trade consultant.

All of us in the food industry need to start speaking up about maintaining the UK's high standards, it can't be left to the farming community to continually fight against the erosion of our standards. If food standards are lowered for imports post-Brexit, it affects all of us across the food industry and most importantly, it absolutely affects all UK customers by directly lowering the quality of food.

Published in LinkedIn