At the CIEH food safety conference earlier this week (29-30 June) the temperature was taken across a series of issues via quick online polls of the delegates taking part. Some 159 food and EH experts attended in the virtual event so although not a comprehensive survey it does give a solid indication of viewpoints.
A big question was around food safety and what impact the conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the number of UK reported food poisoning cases. Dead on half thought it would mean an increase in the number of food poisoning cases reported, while 29% thought it would remain the same, and 21% thought it would decrease.
Again on food safety, delegates were asked about the impact of the UK’s exit from the EU. Some 55% thought Brexit will lead to a reduction in food safety standards and increase risks for consumers. However, 31% said it wouldn’t, and 14% didn’t know.
‘Do you see food fraud as a food safety issue?’ was another interesting question posed: a resounding 90% said yes, 4% said no, and 6% said not sure.
What sort of impact Brexit would have on shopping habits was also asked in the poll. Would it see consumers buying local produce and supporting British farmers, or would price be the primary consideration? Just 15% thought people would shop locally regardless of price, while a clear majority of 83% voted for ‘maybe, but it will depend on cost’.
As COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease, delegates were asked whether they expected to see more EHPs employed as food regulators, fewer, or no impact on the numbers employed here. On this question there was less consensus, with 33% thinking there would be more, 27% less, and 40% believing there would be no impact.
Whether a ‘permit to trade’ ought to be introduced - that businesses would need to acquire before they started trading - was another question posed. A huge majority, 72%, agreed with the proposal, with 17% and 11% saying they were undecided and disagreed, respectively.
With a nod to questions around future regulation, a poll question was posed whether large businesses that were “influential and highly compliant” should continue to be inspected by local authorities at a local level. A resounding majority, 70%, said yes, with 18% and 12% saying no and undecided respectively.
The introduction of allergen labeling changes that come into effect across England, Wales and Northern Ireland in October was discussed at the event and a poll question asked: do you think that labeling foods pre-packed for direct sale will lead to a reduction in food allergens? This uncovered an area of uncertainty with 40% saying yes, but 42% saying no, and 19% saying they didn’t know.