The FSA’s Northern Ireland office opened its doors to Guild members on a frosty Friday morning in Belfast recently for a briefing on its role in food safety, standards, nutrition and dietary health. The Agency advises Ministers on food safety and standards issues, developing policy and proposing legislation. Providing timely and effective responses to food and feed incidents across Northern Ireland and setting standards and auditing District Councils’ food enforcement activities are all key objectives of the FSA here. Aside from establishing standards and auditing meat hygiene, animal feed, eggs and milk enforcement by DAERA, members were also briefed on current priorities in encouraging food producers and caterers to provide healthier food, as well as advising the public on diet and nutrition and food safety issues.
We heard about progress on its Flagship Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS) which became a legal requirement to display in October of this year and how it is engaging with key stakeholders to shape a new regulatory assurance system.
An overview of food crime and food fraud issues and the action taken to protect consumers includes withdrawal of food from the market and food recalled from consumers was also provided. Following the Horse meat incident in 2013 and the Elliott review into the integrity and assurance of food supply networks, the Government agreed to establish a Food Crime Unit (NFCU) to give a focus to enforcement efforts against fraud and criminality in the food chain. It has been recommended that the NFCU becomes an arms length body of the FSA.