Downturn in food hygiene inspections could leave a sour taste for UK food manufacturers
A rallying call to address the decline in food hygiene inspections taking place in the UK could result in food manufacturers facing heightened pressures to provide greater accountability on the quality of its produce before it reaches the retailer and the consumer, warned Martyn Gill, Managing Director for EMEA at InfinityQS.
Research obtained from a recent freedom of information (FOI) request to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed that the number of food hygiene inspections carried out by local authorities in the UK has fallen by approximately 15 per cent since 2003. The figure is equal to almost 47,000 inspections and has led to concerns for public safety, with the decline attributed to increased budgetary pressures.
Industry practitioners, health lobbyists and consumer watchdogs have been quick to demand urgent action is taken to address this, which could result in huge implications for those parties operating within these supply chains.
Gill stated: “Food safety needs to focus on prevention not reaction. It’s clear from the findings that the lack of inspections is being noted and we’ll likely see greater lobbying to address this. Ultimately, all it will need is one high profile incident to capture the media’s attention – combined then with the data already available regarding the lack of inspections, and the fallout will have serious ramifications. It’s integral those involved within the supply chain take actions now and review existing quality control measures and processes.
“For food manufacturers, supplier verifications, qualifications, certifications and third party accreditations are all integral in supporting a system of prevention, however, they need to be reinforced with effective process control technologies.
“Too often organisations focus on ensuring that their processes are geared towards “after-the-fact” ignoring in-process detection and prevention. In reality this could be waiting for an inspector to find a problem – given that inspections are now decreasing, it is likely to be the customer who finds fault, which would be catastrophic. For the food manufacturers it’s imperative they ensure effective process control technologies are in place within their production lines that can alert them to real time issues.”
Gill continued: “While proper documentation is critical within food management and handling it is not without its issues. In practice, if a food shipment reaches its destination and is then rejected on the grounds of quality, huge costs will be absorbed by the food manufacturer relating to shipping, scrapping and fixing – if however, critical quality control checks are carried out at the original source and at key points within the supply chain, then it’s likely irregularities and quality issues will be spotted sooner.
“The data within these real time checks could then be made available electronically and then shared across the supply chain, to demonstrate quality control processes have been adhered to, assigning accountability to key stakeholders. Not only will this ensure the safety of the food but also reduce unnecessary costs and wastage.
Gill concluded: “What needs to happen is a change in mind-set moving towards prevention opposed to reaction. Heightened awareness regarding the lack of inspections will only intensify and therefore the onus will be on the food manufacturers to ensure effective quality control processes are in place - it is imperative action is taken now!”
EU and US agree end to Airbus-Boeing supply chain tariffs
The EU and US have agreed to resolve a 17-year dispute over aircraft subsidies, suspending tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of goods that have plagued procurement leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.
Under an agreement reached by European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Tuesday, the tariffs will be halted for a period of at least five years.
It will bring an end to punitive and disruptive levies on supply chains that have little to do with the argument, which became embroiled in the trade battle. Businesses on both sides of the dispute have been hit with more than $3.3bn in duties since they were first imposed by the US in October 2019, according the EC.
The US imposed charges on goods upto $7.5bn in response to a World Trade Organisation ruling that judged the EU’s support of Airbus, its biggest aircraft manufacturer, unlawful. A year later in November 2020, the EU hit back. The WTO found the US had violated trade rules in its favourable treatment of Boeing, and was hit with EU duties worth $4bn.
In all the tariffs affected $11.5bn worth of goods, including French cheese, Scotch whisky, aircraft and machinery in Europe, and sugarcane products, handbags and tobacco in America. Procurement leaders on both sides of the fence were forced to wrestle with tariffs of 15% on aircraft and components, and 25% on non-aircraft related products.
Boeing-Airbus dispute by the numbers
- The dispute began in 2004
- Tariffs suspended for 5 years
- $11.5bn worth of goods affected by tariffs
- $3.3bn in duties paid by businesses to date
- 15% levy on aircraft and 25% on non-aircraft goods suspended
Both sides welcome end to tariffs
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen branded the truce a “major step” in ending what is the longest running dispute in WTO history. It began in 2004.
“I am happy to see that after intensive work between the European Commission and the US administration, our transatlantic partnership is on its way to reaching cruising speed. This shows the new spirit of cooperation between the EU and the US and that we can solve the other issues to our mutual benefit,” she added.
Both aircraft manufacturers have welcomed the news. Airbus said in a statement that it will hopefully bring to an end the “lose-lose tariffs” that are affecting industries already facing “many challenges”. Boeing added that it will “fully support the U.S. Government’s efforts to ensure that the principles in this understanding are respected”.
The US aerospace firm added: "The understanding reached today commits the EU to addressing launch aid, and leaves in place the necessary rules to ensure that the EU and United States live up to that commitment, without requiring further WTO action."
This week’s decision expands upon a short-term tariff truce announced in March this year. The EC says it will work closely with the US to try and further resolve the dispute, establishing a Working Group on Large Civil Aircraft led by each side’s trade minister.
Airbus last month signalled to suppliers that post-pandemic recovery was on the horizon, telling them to scale up to meet a return to pre-COVID manufacturing levels. “The aviation sector is beginning to recover from the COVID-19 crisis,” said Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury, adding that suppliers should prepare for a period of intensive production “when market conditions call for it.”