Lords' concern for Government lack of clarity over chemicals risk assessment
12 Mar 2019
Chair of the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee, Lord Teverson has said it is “deeply concerning” that the Government remains unclear whether it will have access to European risk assessments post-Brexit.
He was speaking after peers cross-examined both public health minister Steve Brine MP and Food Standards Agency chair Heather Hancock about preparations for regulation after the crucual Brexit date of 29 March.
The committee heard that, if a Withdrawal Agreement is reached, it has still not been agreed how the UK would relate to EU food safety systems through a transition period
Said Teverson: “We understand that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal it will have to assess and manage food safety risks itself, and we were reassured by the extent of the preparations that the Food Standards Agency have undertaken in this regard.
Government has no idea whether we will have full access to EU risk assessments, or any access to their surveillance and information sharing mechanisms. This is deeply concerning
Lord Teverson, chair, House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee
“But the other possible scenario from 29 March, which is in just over three weeks’ time, is that we enter into a transition period. During this time we will be required to follow the EU’s food safety rules and regulations, but we discovered today that the UK Government has no idea whether we will have full access to EU risk assessments, or any access to their surveillance and information sharing mechanisms. This is deeply concerning.”
As an EU member the country benefits from a common food safety risk assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), risk management, inspection, audit and information sharing mechanisms. After the UK withdraws from Europe, it will have responsibility for these functions.
However, British participation in EFSA (and access to its risk assessment information) during a transition period has not been negotiated and it is unknown whether the UK would continue to be allowed to attend meetings of the EU’s Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed. This body makes the majority of decisions on how EU Member States should respond to food safety risks.
Continued access to the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, a key mechanism for sharing food safety risk information between member states, is also still ‘subject to negotiations’, the Lords’ committee heard.