FSA food hygiene revamp could be harder on small producers
The Food Standards Agency’s (FSA) new blueprint for policing food hygiene could see smaller artisan producers come under more scrutiny than large manufactures, it is feared.
Erik Milstone, professor emeritus of science policy at the Science Policy Research Unit at the University of Sussex, told FFD the FSA’s proposed Regulating Our Future (ROF) blueprint assumed the most modern companies needed least supervision.
Prof Milstone, co-author of a Centre for Food Policy report on ROF, said it was as if the FSA were saying traditional methods are the least safe and the most modern are the safest, which would subject artisanal production to tougher inspections.
Rufus Carter, chief operations officer, of pâté-maker Patchwork Traditional Food Company, said small producers did not try to cut corners any more than big producers.
“The idea that an artisan producer is going to be manufacturing with cats and dogs in the kitchen is complete nonsense,” he told FFD. “It’s easier for [the FSA] to investigate an artisan producer than it is a multinational because artisan producers are more submissive and don’t employ full-time lawyers.”
He said artisan producers created headaches for regulators because they were innovative with food so there were no precedents or benchmarks for the inspectors to use.
Prof Milstone thought large high-tech operations, especially abattoirs, slaughterhouse and meat-cutting plants, created the greatest risk.
“The way the FSA is talking, it’s as if your sector [artisan] would be the greatest risk,” said Prof Milstone.
Jonny Crickmore, co-owner of Fen Farm Dairy in Suffolk, which is a specialist in raw drinking milk and cheese, said: “We need to as a country support the smaller guys so we don’t end up going like the Americans where there are just franchises and big companies.”
The FSA denied that it had made any assumptions that artisan businesses were a greater risk than big companies.
“In our new model we want to reward all businesses, irrespective of their size, who do the right thing, making it easier for businesses to demonstrate that they are complying with the standards and the use of technology will help us do that,” a spokeswoman said.
The agency is currently considering ROF, which outlines a new approach to policing food businesses.