Collaborative agreement between the Food Standards Agency, local authorities and the Welsh Government.
Food business operations and consumer behaviours have evolved rapidly over recent years as a consequence of the UK’s exit from the EU, the COVID-19 pandemic and other global events. Technological developments, business innovation and digital advances are also continually reshaping the food business landscape and creating new regulatory challenges.
Roles and responsibilities
Senedd Cymru has legislative competence to pass laws (Acts) in relation to most aspects of food and drink.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) in Wales is responsible for developing policies, or assisting the development of policies, relating to food and feed hygiene and safety, food standards and composition and other related consumers interests such as food labelling. It does this through independent advice to Welsh Ministers, Welsh Government officials, and through advice, information or assistance to any public authority such as local authorities.
Local authorities deliver public protection services locally, applying national food and feed safety policy and legislation to protect and promote public health, well-being, and prosperity. They deliver official controls in most food businesses and implement the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme in Wales. The Welsh Local Government Association plays a key role in co-ordinating and supporting activity across local authorities.
Future proofing food regulation
Delivering a fit-for-purpose regulatory regime, capable of meeting consumer and food business dynamic needs, requires the Welsh Government, local authorities and the FSA to work in the spirit of the Wales Local Government Partnership Scheme. It requires partnership working based on mutual trust and respect that recognises the value and legitimacy of each body’s role and which balances co-design, co-production and consultation.
The FSA has established the Achieving Business Compliance (ABC) programme to consider how robust food business regulation can be delivered more effectively.
The ABC programme was established in January 2020 following a review of the Regulating our Future (RoF) programme, which it replaces. It is designed around the lessons learned from RoF and is based on joint endeavour. The FSA is working with local authorities, businesses, and other partners to ensure cross-sector collaboration and ensure co-production. The Safe Sustainable Authentic Food Wales committee has a key role to play in facilitating this work.
The ABC programme is evolving, with several projects being piloted and evaluated to inform considerations of long-term change feasibility, effectiveness and roll-out. ABC comprises three workstreams details of which can be found on the FSA website.
Objectives for Wales
The objective of this programme is to make it easier for businesses to provide safe and trusted food for consumers, for regulatory resources to be more efficiently targeted according to risk and, for compliance to be improved across the system (through closer working between regulatory partners and businesses). The partners to this agreement have agreed to ensure:
- Proposals are evidence-based and can demonstrate they deliver improvements to food business regulation in Wales and more collaborative, effective and efficient ways of working between the partner agencies.
- Current high standards for food safety or consumer confidence are protected.
- The integrity and consumer confidence in the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme is maintained.
- Unintended consequences from one regulatory system on another are identified and mitigated.
- Consistency across the UK is sought where practical and where not an approach appropriate for Wales is taken.
- Any changes proposed have sustainability at their core and align with the long-term ambitions of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
- An enhanced system of registration or licensing of food businesses prior approval rather than right of registration is required is explored as part of the programme.
- Engagement and consultation is conducted with relevant stakeholders.
- Regular updates are provided to Ministers to report progress against key objectives.
- Ministerial approval is sought prior to implementing any operational changes.