No-deal Brexit? Defra consults on food nutrition legislation

The Department of the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published a consultation on the Nutrition (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2018.

This will predominantly affect:

  • Nutrition & Health Claims;
  • Vitamins, minerals and certain other substances;
  • Compositional and information requirements of food for specific groups
  • Food supplements

in the ‘unlikely event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit’.

The consultation states the UK will be taking a ‘common approach’ in these areas with the EU, in that processes for food businesses and consumer protections will remain substantially similar to the existing arrangements. Fixes will be predominantly 'technical' in nature, simply changing EU specific references so that they remain relevant when the UK is no longer a Member States.

In the case of health and nutrition claims it is proposed that the functions (i.e. scientific advisory) of European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be transferred to a UK Nutrition and Health Claims Committee (UKNHCC) which will be a new committee established under the remit of Public Health England (PHE.) UKNHCC will be responsible for the scientific substantiation and providing advice to the 4 UK administrations on any new nutrition and health claims made within the UK post exit.  It will be an executive agency sponsored by the Department of Health and Social Care administrated and resourced by civil servants from within PHE but will be politically and operationally independent.

Within the remit of substantiation for vitamins and minerals it is proposed that a UK ‘committee designated for this purpose’ is responsible; and for compositional and information requirements of food for specific groups / ’foods for Particular Nutritional Uses’ (PARNUTS legislation) and in relation to food supplements it is proposed that there should simply be ‘a UK authority’ to carry out functions.

It seems uncertain that the amount of resources to assess the science behind any applications will be available considering the pressures that the Department of health and social care are currently under and it may be questioned whether this may simply be a tick box facility following EU and EFSA’s lead. It is also open to debate as to whether PHE has, to date, been totally objective and scientific in its' advice. 

The consultation is open until 14 December.

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