As test results from a public laboratory in West Yorkshire find more additives in food products, including a withdrawn prescription drug for obesity in herbal tea, David Young, head partner of health and safety at Eversheds, considers the consequences.
Young said: ‘Perhaps the only surprise here is the extent of the issue. The findings from a public laboratory in West Yorkshire not only confirm Prof Chris Elliott’s message but highlight a problem in the UK that is going to be a long time solving.’
In Young’s view, there are at least three factors responsible, which he says to a degree are UK centric — first, the decision when creating the Food Standards Agency in 1999 to keep the policing and enforcement role largely separate, which drove down local authority lines, leading to inconsistency in delivery and local funding priority decisions away from the food sector.
The second factor, Young said, is independent testing facilities — although they are essential, no one prioritised and, more importantly, wanted to pay for their continued existence in sufficient numbers.
The third factor is availability. ‘Whether one sees it as consumer driven or retailer driven, we want year-round availability and we want cheap,’ continued Young. ‘Manufacturers and retailers may well feel they are too easy a target from all sides. The stark reality is that there are too many individuals willing to seek unlawful gains at the expense of others — not just consumers.
‘Expect a resurgence in the popularity of organic food, a re-ignition of the GM debate and — above all — prices to go up as a result.’