The UK has one of the strongest systems of protection for farm animal health, welfare and agriculture in the world. Since its formation, the EU has also been recognised globally for maintaining and promoting animal health and welfare, with directives and regulations that have raised and harmonised controls across the single market, improving standards in many of the EU Member States that previously were less concerned with protections
in this area.
The main body of animal health law in the UK (derived from both domestic statute and the EU) is interpreted, communicated and enforced by authorised animal health officers from local authorities. In the main, this is the trading standards service. The legal and regulatory framework for animal health, welfare and feed ensures that the food chain from farm to fork remains protected, as well as ensuring the exotic notifiable animal disease status of the UK is not compromised.
Higher standards of protection represent a trade-off and bring competitive challenges in wider global markets, where factory-style intensive farming means the principles of animal sentience, health and welfare become secondary to lowering costs of production. With budgets and numbers of local authority trading standards staff in considerable decline, there is a correlating threat to the potential for reduced standards of animal health and welfare, as the global competition for markets increases and the levels of regulatory checks and enforcement diminish.
The EU (Withdrawal) Act 2018 has the intention of transposing all directly applicable regulations into UK law, thereby ensuring no cliff edge and a functioning statute book on the day the UK leaves the EU.
Fundamentally, the way that EU law is applied and enforced relating to animal health and agriculture within the UK will not change, and existing EU-derived legislation will remain in place and be transposed into domestic statute via a number of EU exit amendments.
The proposed ‘Agriculture Bill’, detailing Government plans for financial support for farming post-EU exit, is still being debated. However, early indications are that by 2028, basic payments of direct funding will be phased out to farming communities and financial support will be replaced by an ‘environmental land management scheme’ (ELMS) that pays ‘public money for public goods’, and there will be new support for increasing agricultural productivity and higher animal health and welfare programmes. The Direct Payments to Farmers (Legislative Continuity) Act 2020 has been introduced on exit day and the EU legislation governing the 2020 CAP direct payment schemes becomes part of domestic law.
Whilst in a transition stage following the UK withdrawal from the EU, until it is clear on what trade deals there may be on the table between the UK, the EU and the rest of the world, it is not possible to state what the rules will be in the future or how they will apply. Animal health and feed law is a devolved function; therefore, it is expected that there will be similar and parallel provision across the whole of the UK.
An unintended consequence of reduced Government funding to some of the less viable farming communities may lead to a rise in the number of complaints that local authorities receive relating to animal health and welfare, particularly where enhanced environmental or welfare standards on farm are expected for payments to be made and these cannot be achieved. If livestock keepers leave the industry in a responsible manner realising that their business is no longer viable, this will have minimal impact on the demands of the trading standards service. However, for those that fail to recognise that their business is no longer viable, or who are holding out for things to get better, there could potentially be a rise in welfare cases that may require intervention from local authority enforcers.
There is suggestion that there will be an increase in people keeping a few pet farm animals including chickens, goats or pigs in their back yards to beat any potential increase in shop prices following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. Should this become a trend there is a risk that awareness of where these backyard premises are located will not be known, raising concerns over management of any notifiable exotic animal disease outbreak.
The Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) was put in place to provide a tool for the exchange of information with regards to serious risks to the protection of the food chain by its members. There is a legislative basis for RASFF in Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety. However, other non-EU countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, are included in the alert system. It is believed that following the withdrawal from the EU, the UK would not have access to RASFF, yet the relationship with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) remains unclear.
Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) is the European Commission’s multilingual online management tool for intra-EU trade and importation of animals, semen and embryo, food, feed and plants. TRACES facilitates the exchange of information between all involved trading parties and control authorities, and speeds up the administrative procedures. It offers traceability for movements of animals, semen and embryo, food, feed and plants moved across the EU and contributes to the reduction of the impact of disease outbreaks and brings a quick response to any sanitary alert for the better protection of consumers, livestock and plants.
The network promotes better cooperation between the competent authorities but also between the traders themselves and their competent authorities. TRACES allows the quick detection of fake certificates and therefore contributes to the enhancement of trust vis-à-vis its partners.
In October 2019, as part of the withdrawal agreement from the EU, Member States granted the UK ‘national listed status’, which ensures exports of live animals and products of animal origin, such as meat, fish and dairy, can continue. The move recognises the UK’s biosecurity and animal health standards are up to EU standards. These moves would still be reported through TRACES. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the UK’s plan is to replace TRACES with its own ‘Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System’ (IPAFFS).
UK legal framework
In preparation for the UK withdrawal from the EU, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and the FSA have drafted several EU exit regulations that came into force on or immediately before exit day. All regulations have been made under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. It is important that relevant officer authorisations are updated where needed to ensure that they reflect the amendments to the legislation and there is no risk of acting ultra vires. Whilst English legislation is cited in Sch.1, similar provisions have been made to other devolved legislation not listed.
One of the main considerations moving into the future is the introduction of Regulation (EU) 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health (‘Animal Health Law’). It is expected that this will be implemented by the UK by 2021.
There are two key pieces of regulation that have an impact on this requirement: one is EU Regulation 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases now known as the ‘Animal Health Law’; the second is EU Regulation 2017/625 on official controls and other official activities performed to ensure the application of food and feed law and the rules on animal health and welfare. Both of these pieces of legislation make it a requirement for the competent authority to have qualified staff.
This legislation is yet to be adopted by the UK; however, it is expected that the regulation will form part of UK statute as it will consolidate a lot of the individual regulations that are in place within the EU for 39 animal diseases. Should the
UK choose not to adopt the regulation it may have a massive impact for trade outside of the UK.
The UK is reliant upon risk analysis systems used in Europe for food and feed, and it will now be responsible for ensuring that functions presently undertaken by the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) continue
in the UK. Risk analysis is a structured approach to the identification and management of public health hazards. The approach is made up of three components:
● Risk assessment This involves using a scientific approach to identify hazards and estimate the potential risk to human and/or animal health. This includes evaluating the likely exposure to risks from food and other relevant sources.
● Risk management The consideration
of potential measures to either prevent or control the risk. It considers the risk assessment and other factors related to consumers’ wider interests in relation to food to identify an appropriate response
● Risk communication The exchange of information and opinions throughout the risk analysis process between risk assessors, risk managers, consumers, industry, the academic community and other interested parties. It includes understanding the concerns of consumers and other stakeholders, the publication of risk assessment findings and other supporting evidence, and the distribution of final advice.
For animal feed safety, international best practice will remain in place for public and animal health protection. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Food Standards Scotland (FSS) are the competent authorities for ensuring
that systems are in place to manage risks for feed.
Review the 8 questions below, and when you’re ready, submit your answers at tradingstandards.uk/cppdtest.
1. Animal health and feed law is a devolved function. True or false?
2. The proposed ‘Agriculture Bill’ details Government plans for financial support for farming post EU exit. True or false?
3. How many animal diseases are included in Regulation (EU) 2016/429 on transmissible animal diseases and amending and repealing certain acts in the area of animal health (‘Animal Health Law’)?
4. What is included in the three stages of risk analysis?
a) Risk development
b) Risk classification
c) Risk communication
5. What does RASFF stand for?
a) Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed
b) Rapid Advice Service
for Food and Feed
c) Rapid Alarm System
for Feed and Food
6. What is the legislative basis for RASFF?
a) Regulation (EC) No 178/2002
b) Regulation (EC) No 183/2005
c) Regulation (EU) 2016/429
7. Trade Control and Expert System (TRACES) will be replaced by IPAFFS. What does this stand for?
a) Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System
b) Important Products, Animals, Food and Feed System
c) International Products Animals, Food and Feed System
8. Article 11 of Regulation (EU) 2016/429 requires competent authority officers to be qualified. True or false?
Applicants who complete the module successfully will be given a certificate. The test must be taken by September 30, 2020.
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