Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)
Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch formally signed the treaty to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on 16 July 2023.
CPTPP) is a free trade area of 11 countries spanning the Indo-Pacific. The 11 members of the CPTPP are: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Chile, Japan, Malaysia , Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Brunei. China’s application to join is reportedly next in the queue.
More than 99 percent of UK goods exports to CPTPP countries will now be eligible for zero tariffs, including key UK exports such as cheese, cars, chocolate, machinery, gin and whisky.
Voices against the deal have highlighted concerns for food safety, farming and environmental standards in the UK and in supply chains. Also that as part of the CPTPP deal, the UK has accepted 13,000 tonnes of beef to be imported from the trade bloc every year, starting from 10 years after the deal is signed.
Grain and Inflation
A slowdown in the soaring rate of food prices have contributed to UK inflation dropping. However, world wheat prices have been climbing on global markets after Russia pulled out of an agreement that guaranteed safe passage for ships carrying cereals through the Black Sea. This has reignited fears of the impact on poorer, grain-importing countries, as well as on western nations dealing with high food inflation.
Additionally, the 2023 European cereal harvest is set to be its lowest since 2007 – at 256 million tonnes, some 9.5% lower than the five-year average of 283 million tonnes, as reported by European farming organisation Copa Cogeca this week.
Competition and Markets Authority Update on Groceries and Unit Pricing Published
Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has published a Joint Update summary, alongside two reports on its work into Unit Pricing and Groceries. The update on Groceries identifies 10 indicative product categories that merit further analysis by the CMA to gain a deeper understanding of competition and price dynamics. Compliance concerns were identified on unit pricing, the CMA is now calling for Government reform in this area. The CMA has also written to those that are not fully compliant and expects them to make changes to address its concerns or risk enforcement action.
Food and non-alcoholic drinks prices jumped 17.3% in the year to June, which is down from 18.3% in May. On 15 May, the CMA announced a stepping up of their work in the groceries sector. On 30 May they published an open letter with detail on plans looking at competition at retailer level, between suppliers and between raw material providers.
On 20 July an initial update on the CMA’s ongoing work was provided with the publication of two reports: an assessment of retail competition in the groceries sector and a review of unit pricing practices across major retailers.
Although food price inflation is at historically high levels, evidence collected to date by the CMA indicates that competition issues have not been driving this in relation to retail competition. The CMA has not yet examined competition for individual product categories or across the wider grocery supply chain. This is stated to be an important focus for the next phase of its work.
The update identifies 10 indicative product categories that merit further analysis to gain a deeper understanding of competition and price dynamics.
In selecting these, the CMA have taken account of a number of factors, including the rate of consumer price inflation (including whether this has differed materially from similar product categories, and from input price inflation); the importance of the product to consumers; and the potential for further scrutiny to shed light on the groceries supply chain and/or consumer behaviour.
The initial product categories identified for potential further consideration are: baby formula, baked beans, bread, chilled desserts, lemonade, mayonnaise, milk, pet food, poultry and ready meals.
The CMA has found compliance concerns with the Price Marking Order (PMO) amongst all those retailers it reviewed, however for some retailers these were relatively minor. The CMA has identified that compliance is worse amongst some variety retailers.
Some of the problems stem from the unit pricing rules themselves, which allow unhelpful inconsistencies in retailers’ practices and leave too much scope for interpretation. As a result, shoppers may be finding it hard to spot and compare the best deals.
The CMA’s concerns relate to:
- Promotions – some retailers not displaying unit prices for any products on promotion.
In its report, the CMA has set out recommendations on the unit pricing rules and is calling on the government to reform this legislation, to help shoppers spot the best deals. The CMA has also written to those that are not fully complying with the PMO and expects them to make changes to address its concerns or risk enforcement action.
More broadly the CMA is calling on all retailers to give consumers the unit pricing information they need to make meaningful comparisons, particularly for products on promotion, even before any reforms to the PMO are introduced.
The CMA will publish the findings of its consumer research into the use of unit pricing in Autumn 2023.
The results of this finding may already be in evidence as earlier this month it was reported by the Grocer that Waitrose had notified suppliers by email that it would no longer run price promotions for any lines that have been on sale at a promotional price “for more than half of a rolling 12-month period”. The limit, “is to ensure we remain compliant with pricing and promotions guidance as set out by the Competition & Markets Authority”.
Next steps for the CMA:
- continue to monitor indicators of retail competition;
- continue the work gathering evidence from branded and own-label suppliers, to consider competition at this level of the supply chain and its impact on groceries prices;
- examine in more detail supply chains, inflation drivers and the role of competition for the product categories initially identified.
The CMA plan to publish a further update in the autumn 2023. As part of this, they may make recommendations, or announce further work in particular areas if anything is found which justifies further scrutiny
Aspartame Risk Assessment WHO Report
Assessments of the health impacts of the non-sugar sweetener aspartame were released this month by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).
Reports initially highlighted aspartame as a carcinogen however the full details have now been provided citing “limited evidence” for carcinogenicity in humans. IARC classified aspartame as possibly carcinogenic to humans (IARC Group 2B) and JECFA reaffirmed the acceptable daily intake of 40 mg/kg body weight. Aspartame hazard and risk assessment results released (who.int)
The IARC uses four categories: 1 - causes cancer; 2A - probably causes cancer; 2B - possibly causes cancer and 3 - no evidence available on cancer risk.
Aspartame was classified as 2B, "possibly carcinogenic", on the basis of limited evidence for cancer in humans (specifically hepatocellular carcinoma, a type of liver cancer).
Other possible 2B carcinogens in the group include aloe vera, bracken ferns, lead and working as a hairdresser.
The scale does not say how much exposure you need to raise your cancer risk - it just identifies the substances as hazards.
JECFA reviewed the data on aspartame consumption and said adults can safely consume up to 40mg per kilo of body weight.
This does not change the daily limits recommended previously.
That means an adult who weighs 70kg could consume 2,800mg of aspartame a day.
A can of diet drink typically contains about 200mg of aspartame. So a 70kg adult could drink 14 cans without going over the safe daily limit for aspartame.
Professor Robin May, the FSA's chief scientific adviser, said: "JECFA's report supports the FSA's view that aspartame is safe to consume at current permitted use levels."
In December 2013 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a full risk assessment of aspartame, concluding that aspartame and its breakdown products are safe for the general population (including infants, children and pregnant women). The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 40 milligrams per kilogram of body weight per day (mg/kg bw/day) was considered protective for the general population. Consumer exposure to aspartame is estimated to be well below this ADI by EFSA.
There has therefore been no changes to any ADI amount or new safety data put forward by the WHO however the reporting of this has certainly raised public concern on this food additive which in turn may be impact on a brand reputation level certain food products containing it but not from a food safety requirement perspective.
FSA Consultation on Food Crime Unit
The Food Standards Agency has launched a consultation over proposals to grant its National Food Crime Unit enhanced investigatory powers.
Proposals for the unit to expand its existing powers under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 to include the ability to apply for search warrants, seize evidence and interview suspects who are under arrest.
This follows on from last year’s consultation on enhanced investigatory powers for the NFCU. Responses were broadly supportive. The FSA is seeking to secure further appropriate legal powers for the NFCU and to reduce the dependency of support on partners such as local authorities and the police.
“This additional power of search and entry would be a vital tool to make sure that investigations can be progressed more directly, while also freeing up local police services so their vital resources can be diverted to other priorities.” FSA’s Acting Head of the NFCU, Andrew Quinn.
Closing date 6 August 2023 Consultation on the Additional Proposal for Enhanced Investigatory Powers for the Food Standards Agency | Food Standards Agency
A promotion offered in a leaflet for Domino’s Pizza was not administered fairly and was likely to have caused participants unnecessary disappointment.
Red Miracle Group intended for one leaflet to be distributed per household, the ASA noted that neither the ad nor the promotional terms and conditions detailed that the offer was limited to one per household, nor that there was any other limitation on the number of pizzas that could be claimed therefore because the promotion had been withdrawn on that basis, the ASA considered that it had not been administered fairly.
The ASA also understood that Red Miracle Group did not honour the promotion, and instead, offered a 60% discount to those who contacted customer services when they could not redeem the promotion. The ASA considered that was not equivalent to offering a free pizza, as promoted in the ad even if overall cost savings across the range were commensurate/more that the price of the pizza.
A TV ad for Gorilla Glue did not perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes.
A TV ad for Gorilla Glue Europe Ltd, seen on 4 April 2023, featured a father playing a ball game with his two sons in the living room of their family home. The father had the younger child on his back in a piggy-back and the older child was seen trying to tackle him to take the ball away. That resulted in him and the children falling over, and knocking various household items off a table, including a candlestick and a toy plane. A gorilla then appeared, startling the family, before the father was seen using super glue to fix the broken items. The gorilla walked off and the father was then rugby-tackled onto the sofa by the children. A voiceover throughout the ad stated, “Uh-oh, someone’s in trouble. Or perhaps not. You see, Gorilla Super Glue fixes all kinds of breaks quickly. And mum stays none the wiser. For the toughest jobs on planet Earth.”
The BCAP Code stated “Advertisements must not include gender stereotypes that are likely to cause harm, or serious or widespread offence”. The joint CAP and BCAP guidance said that ads may feature people undertaking gender-stereotypical roles, but they should take care to avoid suggesting that stereotypical roles or characteristics were always uniquely associated with one gender or were never carried out or displayed by another gender.
Although the ad featured a gorilla walking into a home, which was comedic and surreal, the ASA considered that most elements of the ad were recognisable and realistic.
The ASA did not consider the ad implied that was because keeping the house tidy was the sole responsibility or the mother or that of mothers in general. Although the ad made clear that fixing a household item would avoid the father and sons being “in trouble” with the mother, the ASA did not consider the ad implied that was because the mother was the only member of the household concerned about tidiness.
Recall Caffeine & Product Packaging
Food Safety Requirements include where the product may be injurious to health or unfit for consumption. A recall will be required where this will protect human health. There have been two recall notices issued by the Food Standards Agency this month:
Home Bargains is recalling a protein powder found to contain potentially lethal levels of caffeine. Update 1: Sci-Mx Nutrition recalls Sci-Mx Nutrition Ultra Muscle Strawberry Flavour because of high levels of caffeine | Food Standards Agency
The recall affects Sci-Mx Nutrition Ultra Muscle Strawberry Flavour 1.5kg protein powder because high levels of caffeine have been found in the product. This makes the product unsafe to consume. Some of these products were found to contain levels of caffeine at levels that could be fatal.
Tests on the product found a single serving contained 5g of caffeine, according to a Food Standards Agency consumer warning. Consumers following advice on the packaging would have two servings a day, amounting to 10g of caffeine – a potentially lethal dose.
Bumerang Ltd is recalling Candy Stars Lollipops because the lollipop stick has sharp ends which could cause an injury to health. Bumerang Ltd recalls Candy Stars Lollipops because the lollipop stick has sharp ends which could cause an injury. | Food Standards Agency
Latest Defra reports have warned against contact with dead wild birds in Wales Minister visits Pembrokeshire islands as concern over wild bird flu outbreak grows | GOV.WALES
Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Richard Irvine is reported as stating:
Avian influenza has not gone away. Unfortunately, it continues to be found in the wild bird population, particularly on Anglesey, the Deeside Estuary and Pembrokeshire coast. If you find any sick or dead wild birds please don’t touch them and report any findings to the Defra online service.
If you are a bird keeper please continue to stay vigilant and always maintain the most scrupulous levels of hygiene and biosecurity to protect your flock from disease.
Members of the public have been warned not touch or pick up any dead or visibly sick birds and keep their dogs on a lead to avoid them coming into contact. A request to report sightings to Defra at Report dead wild birds - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk).
Farming Minister Mark Spencer has this month provided further information on regulations that will be introduced this year to seek to provide greater fairness and transparency in the dairy industry. New regulations set to promote fairness and transparency across the dairy sector - Defra in the media (blog.gov.uk)
The regulations are reported to be intended to mean that farmers have clearer pricing terms, with contracts setting out the factors which generate the milk price and allowing farmers to challenge prices if they feel this process isn’t being followed. They will also ensure that changes to contracts can't be imposed on farmers without their agreement.
In addition, under the new regulations, farmers’ contracts will all include a straight-forward way to raise concerns about their contracts, promoting timely issue resolution and there will reportedly be clear rules put in place on notice periods and contractual exclusivity. An enforcement mechanism will also be created to guarantee the regulations are followed.
Funding for farmers, growers and land managers
Guidance on applying for grants and other funding to increase productivity, manage land to benefit the environment and support agricultural business.
Content on this page has been restructured to show grants and funding open or opening soon for applications, closing dates and grant value information. Funding for farmers, growers and land managers - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
The six Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) announced today are the first of the 43 FMPs proposed in the UK’s Joint Fisheries Statement.
The FMPs cover crab and lobster, whelk, king scallops, bass, channel non-quota demersal stocks and southern North Sea and Eastern channel mixed flat fish. The bass and king scallop FMPs have been developed jointly with the Welsh Government.
Each FMP proposes a series of short, medium and long-term actions to ensure the stocks are managed sustainably.
Defra and partner organisations are running online and in-person events throughout August and early September for those with an interest in the commercial and recreational fishing and the marine environment, to find out more about the reforms and how they can respond to the consultations. All events are listed on Eventbrite.
Consultation on Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM)
Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) will allow for effective monitoring and better data on fishing activities through the use of integrated on-board systems that may include cameras, gear sensors and GPS, helping to make data-led fisheries management decisions.
Defra is consulting on expanding the use of REM in English waters,
Consultation on discards reform
A ban on discarding (the practice of throwing unwanted catches of fish back into the sea) was introduced by the EU in 2015, but evidence has shown it has not been as effective as hoped in changing fishing practices.
Defra is consulting on a different approach to manage discards.
The proposals include the key principle of counting all fish catches against quota to keep fishing with agreed UK limits through better catch accounting. Defra will work with industry groups and stakeholders to develop measures to avoid and reduce unwanted catch, for example through more selective fishing gear.
Consultation on a recreational ‘catch and release’ fishery for bluefin tuna (BFT)
Since 2021, the UK negotiated has its own BFT quota through the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT).
Defra is now consulting on plans to permit catch and release recreational fisheries for bluefin tuna in the UK, with the aim of having fishing taking place in UK waters from next summer – allowing recreational fishers, coastal communities and the wider economy to benefit.
Consultation on the removal of licence cap for small fishing vessels
More than 400 English small vessels (10-metre and under) are subject to a limit of 350kg on the amount of finfish quota species they can fish per annum.
Given the increased quota now available to the small-scale fleet, Defra is now seeking views on the permanent remove of the licence cap from 1 January 2024.
Funding awarded through the UK Seafood Fund
The £100 million UK Seafood Fund (UKSF) is already available. Defra is announcing that £45.6 million has been awarded to projects across the UK that will improve infrastructure and provide vital research to inform fisheries management.
£40.1 million is being awarded in the second round of the Infrastructure Scheme to build capability across the supply chain, support coastal communities and contribute towards Net Zero targets.
A further £5.5 million is being awarded as part of the fourth and final round of the Fisheries Industry Science Partnerships (FISP) scheme towards 12 new research projects that will support sustainable fisheries management.
Funding is also available for the catching sector to replace or modernise their engines to reduce emissions, improve reliability and enable new technologies to be tested. The scope for the UKSF Fleet Modernisation Round is being extended to include all commercial vessels.
Response to consultation on flyseining measures in English waters
Reacting to concerns from fishermen about the impact of flyseining (a highly efficient method of trawl fishing which can catch very large numbers of fish) on the sustainability of demersal non quota fish stocks and the impact of more numerous, newer and larger flyseining vessels (compared with more traditional flyseiners) operating in English waters, the UK government carried out a consultation last year on how to best support sustainable fishing and reduce pressures on those stocks.
In the response published today the government has committed to removing a derogation which currently allows a 40mm mesh size to be used for targeted squid fishing – a measure which received clear support from consultation respondents.
The other measures in the consultation are included in the Channel Demersal Non Quota Stock FMP.
Summary of responses to consultation on spatial management measures for sandeels
The government has today published a summary of responses to a consultation conducted this year on spatial management measures for industrial sandeel fishing in English waters of the North Sea. A clear majority of respondents supported a proposal of a full closure of sandeel fishing. A full government response and decision will be published in due course.
Further Defra updates
Animal Health Welfare Pathway Updated
The Animal Health and Welfare Pathway (the Pathway) was launched in 2023.
The Pathway supports continual improvement in farm animal health and welfare. Update to Animal Health and Welfare Pathway policy including what's new and what's next, requested by SME. Animal Health and Welfare Pathway - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Carrier bag charges: retailers' responsibilities
Please see policy on the carrier bag charge.
Update on the guidance section 'Report your records' following the end of the previous reporting period is now available. Carrier bag charges: retailers' responsibilities - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
This link provides information on when retailers must charge a minimum of 10 pence for single-use carrier bags, bags you're not required to charge for and the records you must keep and submit.