Food Standards Agency encourages growth within the Agri-Food Sector

Gerry- latest “The FSA in Northern Ireland welcomes the new Strategic Action Plan for the Agri-Food Industry and we are committed to helping deliver on the recommendations through effective partnership working.”

FSA Director Gerry McCurdy explains its role in Northern Ireland and how good food regulation can assist the economy.

The Food Standards Agency is a UK-wide, non-Ministerial Government Department, responsible for protecting the interests of consumers in regard to food. Our primary aim is to protect public health, so we are responsible for overseeing the enforcement of food safety regulations. In Northern Ireland, we also have a remit for food composition, labelling and nutrition.

In order to achieve our strategic objective, we work in partnership wherever we can, relying on evidence to inform our actions, and we are open and honest in our communication. We believe that good food businesses will thrive where people can choose their food with confidence. Trust is built and maintained by effective, consistent and transparent consumer protection.

Partnership with the agri-food industry in Northern Ireland is a vital part of how the FSA works. This partnership approach supports good regulation and is underpinned by good science. Regulation is a necessary feature of food business operation and we understand that it can, at times, seem like an obstacle. But, by working together, the FSA and the industry can make better regulation processes which recognise and support the growth agenda within this sector.

The FSA has an obligation to protect good, compliant businesses. It also works tirelessly to make sure that non-compliant businesses are not allowed to flout the law and damage the integrity of the industry. The recent horsemeat incident shows how the whole industry can be affected by one or two unscrupulous individuals or organisations, at the expense of the rest.

The FSA, as the central competent authority for food safety, and the organisations who are tasked with enforcing food safety regulations can offer a wide range of support to businesses who comply with the law, or who are struggling to comply. Enforcement officers are there to offer advice, not to ‘catch out’ businesses that need help. Food businesses should not fear regulation, as good food safety practices are good for everyone; for consumers, for businesses and for promoting growth and protecting the reputation of Northern Ireland food.

As an industry the foundations for continued and growing success are the production of safe food, compliance with food law, traceability and confidence in supply chains. Retaining consumer confidence and maintaining local and global customer bases is vital.

The FSA is always looking at ways in which it can improve regulation and is considering how the concept of earned recognition might offer solutions for both the FSA and the industry. Through the FSA’s ongoing engagement with food industry stakeholders, it is apparent how much hard work goes into gaining accreditation in schemes such as the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme and it will be interesting to monitor the progression of this, where compliance is recognised and duplication can be prevented.

The farming and agri-food industry in Northern Ireland has a well-respected reputation locally and across the world and this can only be protected through food safety, compliance, consumer confidence and trust. The Food Standards Agency encourages those in need of assistance with compliance to speak up sooner, rather than later, for the benefit of the whole industry.

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