Food safety standards could be put at risk by Brexit if the UK quits the EU without a deal to keep exchanging information on public health issues, the Local Government Association (LGA) has said.
A failure to protect access to shared intelligence in areas such as animal health systems will increase the chance of a new food scandal, according to the organisation which represents 370 councils in England and Wales.
As an EU member the UK is part of a framework that ensures the traceability of high risk products, such as food, feed and animal products, and provides rapid access to intelligence about their contamination.
The LGA said that regular alerts are sent for things such as pesticides residue, Mercury, Salmonella and E-Coli in order to avoid a repeat of controversies like the horse meat scandal.
Council regulators needed to retain access to such information so they can target their enforcement activity and protect public health, the LGA said.
“Councils, which help to protect public health through their trading standards, environmental health and port health work, are warning of the increased risk to public health if regulators are not able to access these systems and are calling on the government and the European Union to ensure that, regardless of what form the final Brexit agreement takes, the UK’s access to these key mechanisms is maintained,” an LGA spokesman said.
Chairman of the organisation’s Brexit taskforce Kevin Bentley said it was vital the exchange of information continued.
“The UK has painful, recent experience of the damage that is caused when food and feed are compromised,” he said.
“If we lose access to these databases, we will lose access to vital intelligence about the origin of food, feed and animal products, and won’t be aware when rapid alerts are issued to the rest of the continent.
“This will significantly weaken our ability to effectively protect the food system, increasing the risk of a new scandal and undermining public confidence in the food industry.
“After years of funding reductions for trading standards and environmental health, we simply do not have the capacity to increase checks to offset this risk, either at ports or inland, unless this is fully funded. Without additional capacity, there is simply no alternative to continuing to receive and share this type of information.
“Continued access to these EU wide databases is of vital importance and the Government and the European Union must ensure that it is maintained.”