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Low-risk businesses to be spared food inspections

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has set out a new approach to enforcing food regulation which places more onus on businesses to ensure they are compliant and will see some businesses face no inspections.

The regulator said the time had come to create a modern, risk-based, proportionate, robust and resilient regulatory system to keep up with the pace of change in the global food economy.

It said businesses considered low-risk will be subject to fewer or no inspections under the new regime, which will see an expanded role for private assurance schemes, such as Red Tractor, that have their own requirements around food safety and standards.

There will be greater integration of food hygiene and food standards controls to provide a more holistic approach to verifying that food businesses are meeting all of their food safety obligations.

The FSA also plans to enhance the Primary Authority scheme, whereby businesses operating across multiple sites will be assessed based on their business-level controls rather than individual outlets.

A more comprehensive registration system will help capture all food businesses before they start producing, selling or serving food, and help them set off on the right foot, the agency said.

The FSA said that leaving the EU would change patterns of food production, trade and consumption, emphasising the need for a flexible and responsive regulatory system. It added that it was important to act now, rather than wait for the system to falter, risking damaging consequences for public health and for trust in food.

“We want to ensure that food regulation in the future is fit for purpose, anticipates and responds to new, emerging risks, and uses new technology and data to evidence that food businesses are fulfilling their obligations for food to be safe and authentic,” said FSA chairman, Heather Hancock.

The agency denied that a greater reliance on private assurance schemes constituted a move towards greater self-regulation by the food industry.