With Brexit looming, local councils across the UK have been advised to set up so-called “food resilience teams” amid fears that there could be supply disruption and border delays.
Specialists at City, University of London, University of Sussex and the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health sent a document to every council in the country recommending teams be set up to create risk assessments on how the various possible outcomes of Brexit could affect food suppliers in their areas.
This is the latest Food Brexit Briefing from the Food Research Collaboration and argues that councils will play a pivotal role when it comes to post-Brexit food supplies. They hope that by acting locally, councils can help limit possible social disorder that has historically been linked to food supply problems.
According to the notice, there is general agreement that regardless of the form that Brexit takes, there will be disruptions, with a no-deal outcome seemingly the worst. The possible problems and risks that could be seen following Brexit include reduced availability, supply disruption, lower standards and safety, price changes and border delays.
The briefing suggests that the council-created “food resilience teams” need to research and map regional food systems, conduct assessments of where potential risks and disruptions could be found, clarify terms of stockpiling and gather the relevant professionals to do so. These professionals should be sourced from within the local authority, such as environmental health officers, trading standards officers, planners, food emergency planning bodies, and external experts like “NHS-based nutritionists and dietitians, and representatives from commercial bodies and chambers of commerce with knowledge of local food infrastructure”, according to the briefing. Furthermore, the document recommends that the councils be prepared to “convey this information to the Government and public”.
With the aforementioned possibility of a reduction in regulation, the document makes it clear that responsibility for food safety and standards, ranging from “school meals to imported and exported products,” rests solely with local councils.
This briefing comes as no surprise since councils requested advice on what action they can take. The head of Policy at the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Tony Lewis, said that “Local authorities have been asking us for practical advice on how to prepare for a food Brexit – this document contains that advice.” Furthermore, these food resilience teams are a real step councils can take in the runup to Brexit, according to Professor Tim Lang, of the Centre for Food Policy at City.
The impact of Brexit on food supplies will differ across the country, according to Erik Millstone, Professor of Science Policy at the University of Sussex. He says that “Those furthest from Channel ports will be at greatest risk of shortages, which is important for local authorities because their locations will make big differences.”