Food safety

Brexit: EU allergen rules 'not going anywhere'

By Daniel Woolfson

- Last updated on GMT

Lisa Ackerley: "we can’t just say ‘oh, we’re not going to be in the EU soon so let’s abandon it’."
Lisa Ackerley: "we can’t just say ‘oh, we’re not going to be in the EU soon so let’s abandon it’."

Related tags: Food hygiene ratings, Hygiene, Food standards agency

Licensees should not expect allergen legislation handed down from Brussels to change in the near future, despite Britain’s impending exit from the European Union, a leading food-safety expert has stressed.

Speaking at the launch of the British Hospitality Association (BHA)’s new Industry Guide to Good Hygiene Practices​ this week (11 July), food-safety adviser Dr Lisa Ackerley told the Morning Advertiser ​licensees should expect ‘business as usual’.

She said: “We still have the legislation – as it is, it’s enshrined in British legislation – so we can’t just say ‘oh, we’re not going to be in the EU soon so let’s abandon it’.

“It’s not going anywhere and it may well be that the decision is made to keep the legislation as it is because, perhaps, there’s nothing wrong with it.”

‘Shame to remove it’

When it came to food safety, much of the legislation had been around for so long and there had been so much consultation that it would be a shame to remove it solely because of Brexit, she added.

The BHA’s new catering guide is the first update to national food-safety guidelines in 20 years and comes as a spate of food-safety disasters have made the headlines, including the death of a 53-year-old woman​ who became violently ill and died after reportedly eating at a pub carvery.

However, despite these high-profile cases, Ackerley said the pub trade’s food-safety standards had significantly improved over recent years.

“I think the trade is doing pretty well,” she said. “Overall the Food Hygiene Ratings are going up,so more and more people are getting a four or a five.

“And also many businesses are striving to get a five and they see it as a failure if they don’t get a five.”

Greater transparency measures, such as having food-hygiene ratings on display on the Food Standards Agency (FSA)’s website, had helped to drive standards forward, she added.

Harder for the high end?

One of the criticisms the Food Hygiene Ratings scheme has faced from higher-end gastropub and restaurant operators is that, due to the complex and regularly changing processes used in their kitchens, it is harder to get a five-star rating.

Ackerley said the best way to mitigate these worries was to address every food process and document it for the local authority.

She said: “When I was a consultant I worked very closely with some very high-end businesses to help them get pages together which really deal with processes like sous vide or rare cooking.

“I think the message to them is: yes, push the boundaries, but do it safely and write about how you address those risks and document and test it.

“Demonstrate that it’s safe and there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to do those things and achieve a five. But you have to have the confidence of the local authority.”

Don’t make the headlines: read the Morning Advertiser’s ​feature on food safety.

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