Brexit will not compromise UK’s food safety

Brexit will not jeopardise the application of hygienic design in the UK’s food and drink industry since it is already firmly embedded in domestic regulations and practices, claims EHEDG UK & Ireland regional section chairman Eric Partington*, who is also an expert on the use of hygienic food contact materials.

The reason is that the selection of appropriate food contact materials and hygienic engineering are already both being used to maximise food safety, says Partington. Secondly, the regulations governing their use – although originating in the EU – have already been adopted into UK Statutory Instruments and are policed by the UK’s Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This situation will not change when the UK leaves the EU, he argues.

“The UK’s withdrawal from the EU seems to loom over almost every discussion about how daily life may change in the next year or two,” says Partington. “Concern for the quality of our food is no exception and it is pertinent to consider what impact Brexit might have on how it is produced. The selection of appropriate food contact materials, in conjunction with the hygienic engineering of food-production facilities and equipment, make major contributions to food safety.

It is my view that Brexit will make very little difference.”

Materials selection and hygienic engineering demonstrably offer the facility to maximise food safety and there would be little reason for producers not continuing to strive for this, he argues.

What’s more, the regulations governing the selection of materials and design of food-production facilities are no longer ‘EU-exclusive’, he explains. “They will not somehow be inapplicable in the UK after Brexit.”

Incorporated into UK legislation
The legislation which currently guides the selection, marking and traceability of food contact materials in the UK does, indeed, derive from an EU Regulation (EC 1935/2004 Materials and Articles in Contact with Food, commonly referred to as The Framework Regulation), he explains. But its requirements are already incorporated into UK Statutory Instrument 2619, The Materials and Articles in Contact with Food (England) Regulations 2012 (and its equivalents in Wales and Scotland).  The Competent Authority responsible for enforcing this is not an EU body but the UK’s FSA, he points out.

Similarly, he adds, the legislation that requires food-processing machinery to be hygienically designed (as stipulated in Section 2.1.1 of Annex 1 of the Machinery Directive EC 2006-42) is already reproduced word-for-word in Statutory Instrument 1597, The Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 2008, for the enforcement of which the UK’s HSE is the responsible body.

“So, the goal of food producers, processors and distributors in the UK to seek and maintain the highest standards of quality and hygiene is already supported by the UK’s own legislation,” he adds. “Relinquishing that objective cannot be an option.”

* Partington is a metallurgist with some 40 years’ experience of food and drinks production in the UK. He is a European consultant to the Nickel Institute of Toronto, specialising in the applications of stainless steels in the food and beverage industries. He has lectured and published extensively on EU food safety legislation, the selection of food contact materials and the hygienic design of food-processing equipment in the UK, Europe and Asia.

EHEDG Technical Working Group
He co-chairs the European Hygienic Engineering and Design Group’s (EHEDG’s) Technical Working Group, which produced Guideline Document No. 32: Materials of Construction for Equipment in Contact with Food.  He is also chairman of the Regional Section of EHEDG which serves the UK and Ireland.

Various aspects of hygienic design in food and drink processing environments will be covered at the European Hygienic Engineering & Design Group World Congress, which takes place from 21-22 November in London during the Food Matters Live event.