It has been a summer of food scares. They pop up at regular intervals to shake us briefly out of our complacency about the safety of our food supply before we carry on as before.Yup, like big cat scares, henna tattoos gone awry and near-drownings, they are the hallmarks of summer. And they are usually as based in reality as the first, and caused by people's stupidity just as much as the second and third.
Rarely are they a genuine concern. Mostly, they are whipped up by the MSM to fill the empty summer pages.
With equal regularity the authorities reassure us that they have it under control. The risks are low. We have a food chain of unparalleled sophistication and all is basically well in this best of all culinary cornucopias.Well, compared to other countries, yes, we do. That's an undeniable fact.
The truth, however, is that the structures established in the wake of previous scandals to ensure our food is not only safe and wholesome, but is also what it claims to be, are being quietly dismantled. Just when Brexit demands a well-resourced, home-grown capacity to safeguard food standards, we are shrinking our capabilities. Local authorities – a crucial pillar in the edifice since they have legal responsibility for testing foods sold in their areas – are so starved of money that they have cut checking to the bone.Good grief, is there nothing they can't shoehorn a mention of Brexit into?
Controls are to be “proportionate and risk-based”; “administrative burdens” on business are to be reduced; “relationships with industry improved”; and the agency’s understanding is to become “more commercially astute”.In other words, we will replace the burdens on business and instill the concept of personal responsibility and common sense into everyone? What's not to like?
The Food Standards Agency, at its best a model of transparent working in the public interest, has shrunk from the eight floors it once occupied at London Aviation House to less than two.Yet it still manages to find time to draw up nannying press releases, doesn't it?
So before we have another food scandal, let’s hear less about reducing burdens on business, and more about the crucial role of an active state in giving the public the protection it deserves.Whether the public wants it, or needs it...