Food Safety Conference

Earned recognition is ‘massive opportunity’ for firms

Food manufacturers could benefit from gaining ‘more responsibility [in] regulating the supply chain’: John Barnes

Food manufacturers should prepare for an overhaul of the food safety inspection system or face the risk of stiffer penalties, a leading consultant in the field has claimed.

There was a “massive opportunity” for well-positioned manufacturers to benefit from a regulated self-assurance scheme, according to John Barnes, food safety consultant at Enmoore. But, equally, firms faced greater penalties if sufficient measures were not put in place to protect them from food safety risks, he warned.

The introduction of regulated self-assurance – also known as ‘earned recognition’ – is among the changes planned by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) under its Regulating our Future programme.

Addressing delegates at Food Manufacture’s 2017 food safety conference last month (June 22), Barnes – who retired from the position of head of local delivery at the FSA 18 months ago – said the changes planned were “transformational” for the sector.

‘Regulating the supply chain’

“You are going to have more responsibility for regulating the supply chain. It will mean being more formally recognised and potentially rewarded, or penalised where you’re not doing the right thing,” he said.

“Look at your current [food safety] arrangements and just make sure they are in the right space, and that they’ve got credibility.”

Delegates at the event, sponsored by Checkit, Dycem, eurofins, Ishida, Pal International and Westgate Factory Dividers, were shown a list of ‘guiding principles’ from the FSA that a self-assurance scheme would cover.

These included businesses being directly responsible for food safety, and meeting the cost of regulation. Barnes also said there would be a more effective system of penalties and rewards, and a “more segmented approach” to the FSA acknowledging the levels of compliance, depending on the level of information a business was able to provide.

‘Regulation is about changing behaviour’

“The regulation is about changing behaviour, and it’s about the FSA working much more with industry,” he explained.

“It is about hunkering together and trying to protect the UK food industry from problems – and that involves sharing data. Of course, this requires an element of trust, and I think a more trusting relationship [between the FSA and industry] has to be build up.”

Barnes described the current local authority model of inspections, while a “great and mature” system was “not sustainable in the current form”.

“The system needs to be flexible, agile and sustainable. It’s about the agency filling the gaps on what you’re doing, rather than duplicating or replicating them.”

Don’t miss our exclusive video interview with Barnes, filmed at the conference.

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