The regulations are needed to ensure that the Food Standards Agency can in future exercise a range of functions and powers in secondary legislation relating to food safety and standards. Under the 1999 Act, which establishes the Agency, these powers will cease to be exercisable by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is intended that both the 1999 Act and the regulations should come into force on 1 April. Comments are requested by no later than 2 March 2000.
Purpose of the transitional and consequential regulations
To reflect the creation of the Food Standards Agency, and the policy set out in the White Paper, the 1999 Act removes most functions currently exercised by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food under the Food Safety Act 1990 and legislation made under it. It does the same in relation to other Acts relevant to food safety(2). However, the Act provides that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food may continue to perform enforcement functions under these Acts.
Because of the creation of the Agency, regulations are needed to amend the relevant subordinate legislation to pass the appropriate legal powers to it. This concerns not only legislation under which the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will cease to exercise functions, but other legislation relevant to the new responsibilities of the Agency. The regulations also make transitional provisions to ensure that existing instruments relevant to food regulation continue to be valid once the Agency assumes its statutory powers. These instruments include, for example, codes of practice, approvals, licences and other forms of authorisation issued under and in connection with pre-existing statutory powers.
Detailed effect of the regulations
For the most part, the transfer of powers in subordinate legislation flows automatically from the 1999 Act and the functions of the Agency. The transitional and consequential regulations will amend relevant legislation to effect this transfer, in most cases by replacing references to the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with references to the Food Standards Agency. For ease of reference, the draft regulations group the relevant subordinate legislation to be amended by subject area.
The draft regulations amend fresh meat legislation to make the Agency the enforcement authority for fresh meat controls in licensed abattoirs, cutting plants etc. The basis for this is provided in Schedules 3 and 5 of the 1999 Act(3), which provide for the Food Standards Agency to be named as the enforcement authority for regulations made under the Food Safety Act 1990. The Government made clear in the White Paper and during the passage of the 1999 Act that the Agency would be responsible for meat hygiene enforcement, through the Meat Hygiene Service, currently an executive agency of MAFF, which will transfer to the Agency. Similar changes are made by the regulations to dairy hygiene legislation to enable the Agency to take the lead enforcement responsibility in place of MAFF. However, general food law enforcement, as foreseen in the White Paper, will remain the responsibility of food authorities, and there is therefore no need for amendment of the relevant subordinate legislation in cases where enforcement is by food authorities.
The draft regulations also provide (in regulation 11 and schedule 9) for the Agency to monitor the enforcement of food safety-related legislation made in implementation of EU obligations using section 2(2) of the European Communities Act 1972. Section 12 of the 1999 Act gives the Agency the function of monitoring and setting standards for the enforcement of legislation made under the Food Safety Act 1990 and other food-related Acts. The regulations simply supplement the definition of 'relevant legislation' for the purposes of that function to ensure that the Agency's monitoring function applies to all appropriate food safety and related legislation.
Scope of the regulations
These regulations will apply in England and Wales. Scottish Ministers are consulting on separate Scottish legislation which they will make in parallel to these regulations under their devolved powers.
Following consultation, and checking of the draft regulations for accuracy and completeness, it is intended to lay the regulations before Parliament by 10 March, with an entry into force date of 1 April.
Summary of Amendments to Subordinate Legislation
Dairy products, egg products and egg hygiene (regulation 3 and schedule 1):
Animal feedingstuffs (regulation 4 and schedule 2):
General food hygiene, temperature control and fish and shellfish hygiene (regulation 5 and schedule 3):
Meat hygiene and related matters (regulation 6 and schedule 4):
Import and export of food (regulation 7 and schedule 5):
Novel foods and food irradiation (regulation 8 and schedule 6):
Others, including environmental controls, natural mineral waters and welfare at slaughter (regulation 10 and schedule 8):