Overhaul of the Food Safety Act 1990 is not just a legalistic formality. We rehearse some general statements in a consultation invited by the Food Standards Agency. Citizens/customers/consumers need the spice of more education (and not just indoctrination) to flavour the legislative meal.
VEGA comments on an FSA consultation.
Re: Revision of Code of Practice on Food Law Enforcement for England Previously Issued under Section 40 of the Food Safety Act 1990
1. In general we aim at a much raised and better informed and motivated attitude to “Salutary Food from Salubrious Farming”, in the true FSA style of Standards rather than just Safety. This requires stimulation of citizen power and of enterprise from a food industry of a market spurred into greater activity in policing its affairs, engaging in competition and released from dependence on confusing subsidies, and able to respond quickly to developments in longterm trends as well as to master exigencies from resources for which it is insured by its own means of indemnification. Manufacturers, retailers, and customers must increasingly recognise the follies of falsely cheap food. As the British market is moving to greater choice and reliance on transhipped or imported foods, the FSA must engage with the industry on vigorous education on values, rather than mere price, and restore the expenditure on food, albeit less in quantity, to a higher proportion of domestic outgoings than the level to which they have now sunk. The aim of the food laws must reach out to all the farms whose produce end up on the British plate. Apparent imperatives of free trade must be scrutinized in a manner unrestricted by legalistic constraints that override many worthy differences and variety in farming and food and in the contrasts of eating to live and of living to eat. The playing field of the platitude may be level bit it can still slope in different ways.
2. We see great opportunities for the FSA to adopt a more vigorous educative role, allaying the derisions arising from the nanny state contempt for earnest initiatives generating masses of paperwork. The gap between producer and consumer must be bridged more effectively by the FSA. We note that some of this educative function has been revived in the press in an objective fashion: the Times has begun publishing an appropriate weekly bulletin, which reflects some of our suggestions. It is arresting that readers are reminded that home-grown fresh peas are available in the shops and are given instructions on shelling and cooking them. A recent article in this series took an organic slant, but was weak on agronomic matters. Similarly, comments on animal-derived foods dwelt on the very matters of welfare and environment that the industry and most consumers don’t want to know or dwell on.
3. We applaud the FSA’s efforts in collating so much information on standards and regulation for the food industry, within and without the EU (which would include the Codex Alimentarius), but would like it balanced by an invigorated educational campaign informing and imbuing citizens/customers/consumers with the worth of self-discipline and care in all the consequences of food production and wellbeing.