Major risks and impacts to Scottish consumers in relation to food safety and standards have been predicted by the Food Standards Scotland (FSS), if the Retained EU Law Bill is progressed in its current form.

The Bill was announced in January 2022 to facilitate “the easier amendment, replacement, and repeal of retained EU law” in relation to food safety and standards.

The retained EU law currently obligates businesses to label for allergens and provide clear food information to consumers. It also restricts the use of decontaminants on meat, for example chlorine washes on chicken, as well as setting maximum permitted levels of chemical contaminants in food.

The FSS said: “At its most basic level, the retained EU law requires businesses to maintain minimum levels of hygiene and to recall food that is unsafe.”

Protecting consumers

FFS explained that the Bill, officially published on Thursday 22nd September 2022, would result in the removal of consumer protections relating to food, which have applied in Scotland and the rest of the UK for many years.

This Bill also impacts on protections on the safety and composition of baby foods, and “other vulnerable groups could also be affected.”

In its response, the FSS said that “unless action is taken”, these safeguards will disappear on 31st December 2023, which would then require a “substantial resource in an extraordinarily short timeframe to save these standards in law and effectively maintain the protection of consumers.”

It added: “Hard pressed resources will now have to be devoted to introducing a new law to maintain existing law and to protect Scottish consumers.

“Even if high legal standards continued to apply in Scotland, the Internal Market Act 2020 means that there would be no way of stopping goods from elsewhere in the UK being sold in Scotland produced under lower legal standards.”  

FSS chair Heather Kelman said this Bill’s current form poses a “significant risk” to Scotland’s “ability to uphold the high safety and food standards which the public expects and deserves.”