Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Food Law News - UK - 2018

DHSC Guidance, 4 December 2018

BREXIT - Food and feed safety risk assessment and management if there’s no Brexit deal

The following was provided as a web page on at:

A scenario in which the UK leaves the EU without agreement (a ‘no deal’ scenario) remains unlikely. However, it’s our duty as a responsible government to prepare for all eventualities, however unlikely, including ‘no deal’.

Extensive work to prepare for a ‘no deal’ scenario has been under way for almost 2 years and we are taking necessary steps to ensure the country continues to operate smoothly from the day we leave.

Our objective is to minimise disruption by taking unilateral action to prioritise continuity and stability. This guidance is to provide information on how food and animal feed safety risks will be assessed and how risk management decisions will be made to protect human health, in the unlikely event that the UK leaves the European Union (EU) in March 2019 with no agreement in place.

Current context

The current regulatory framework for food and feed safety is well established and designed to protect the public’s health. The government’s priority is to maintain the same high standards for food and feed safety after the UK leaves the EU.

At an EU level and within an EU legislative framework, food and feed safety risk assessment (a scientifically based process in which a hazard is identified and assessed) is undertaken by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and risk management decisions are principally taken by the European institutions, in conjunction with member states.

Decisions relating to the safety of food, and feed risk assessment and management, ensure food and animal feed is safe from the perspective of human health in relation to chemical, microbiological, radiological and allergen risks including:

Relevant EU legislation for this area is listed at the end of this notice.

After March 2019 if there is no deal with the EU

In the unlikely event that the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with no deal in place, those standards that apply to food and feed safety at the point of exit will be maintained. The government will ensure there is a system in place to undertake robust scientific risk assessments and take evidence-based risk management decisions for future food and feed safety issues. The principles of protecting public health and maintaining consumer confidence through openness and transparency will be at the core of our approach.

The UK application process for food and feed authorisations will be similar to that operated by the EU, with which food and feed businesses will be familiar. Provisions are being made to convert current processes into a UK application system, independent from that of the EU, that would apply after exit.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is increasing its capacity to conduct food and feed safety risk assessments and provide risk management advice. Preparations for the FSA to undertake this work are already underway.

Immediately after EU exit, food safety authorities (the FSA and Food Standards Scotland (FSS)) will be responsible for providing risk management advice and recommendations for food and feed safety to ministers. Health ministers will then take the final decisions (involving other ministers as appropriate) based on the recommendation.

In line with their longstanding commitment to openness and transparency, the food safety authorities will publish the advice they provide to ministers as well as the evidence and analysis it is based on, to enable stakeholders to see the basis on which decisions have been made.

Responsibility for taking certain technical and routine food safety risk management decisions could be delegated to food safety authorities at a point after EU exit. This would be subject to consultation.

Consumers and businesses in the UK will continue to benefit from the same high standards for food and feed safety after the UK leaves the EU. The system will continue to offer at least the same scientific robustness and transparency as current risk assessment and risk management processes. Food safety authorities will continue to engage with relevant stakeholders as options are considered and recommendations developed. They will also issue public consultations on risk management proposals as appropriate.

Food and feed safety and hygiene is a devolved policy area. Although a devolved policy area, the FSA has responsibility at central government level for the main body of feed and food safety law in England, Wales and Northern Ireland [See note 1 below]. FSS was established in 2015 as the national food body for Scotland, with responsibility for those functions previously carried out by the FSA in Scotland, including food and feed safety and standards. FSS is a separate and fully devolved body. The FSA and FSS work closely together.

Relevant EU legislation

Food and feed law (food and feed safety and hygiene)

EU Commission consents/authorisations

Food and feed law enforcement (official controls)

Food and feed labelling (Defra, DHSC and FSA all have responsibilities for different parts)

Subsidiary EU regulations and any other identified EU regulations or national regulations implementing EU directives that require amendment to operate effectively after EU exit or to correct any other deficiency will also be included as appropriate.


  1. In Wales and Northern Ireland, the FSA also has responsibility for food composition, standards and wider food labelling, which in England is a Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) policy responsibility. In addition, in Northern Ireland the FSA has responsibility for nutrition, which in England is a Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) policy responsibility.

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