Our research has shown time and time again how strongly people across the UK feel about upholding our food standards. Here’s a recap of the progress we’ve made.
With the strength of public feeling towards protecting our food standards in mind, we launched our Save Our Food Standards campaign due to concerns that future food standards could be weakened and compromised by trade deals.
The government must not underestimate how much of a deal-breaker food standards are for consumers. It has made promises to protect the food on our plates, but these commitments must be enshrined in legislation so consumers can have confidence that they won’t be traded away.
— Which? (@WhichUK) June 18, 2020
Our focus was ensuring the Agriculture Bill firmed up Government commitments to maintain UK food standards in the future.
As a reminder, Which? and many other organisations were concerned how easily UK food standards could be changed, with very little scrutiny, in light of a trade deal which diminished standards.
Thousands of you joined the campaign and added your voice to why this issue was important to you – contacting your MPs, sharing your messages for the government and signing our petition – putting the consumer voice front and centre of the debate.
The Bill has now been completed so we wanted to update you on the outcome and the progress made.
Improvements to the Bill
To start with, the Bill was changed, but not as extensively as we had hoped. While the House of Lords did amend the Bill to add an explicit section around upholding food standards, this was sadly defeated in the House of Commons.
However, we did see some improvement. Firstly, the government amended the Bill to ensure that in the future there would be more scrutiny of trade deals in respect to human, animal or plant life or health, animal welfare and the environment.
Secondly, in response to our joint letter with 56 parliamentarians from across the political spectrum, the government provided further detail of their commitments to uphold food standards, helping to answer outstanding questions.
Finally, the government agreed to put the Trade and Agriculture Commission on a more permanent and statutory footing – to be reviewed every three years, rather than ending in February.
The Commission was set up initially for six months to inform top-level trade policy and negotiations. Moving forward, it will produce a report on the impact on animal welfare and agriculture of each free trade deal the government signs.
This is good progress, and we couldn’t have done it without your support, so thank you!
What’s next for our work on food standards?
While the Agriculture Bill and this phase of our campaign is concluded, we’ll continue to ensure – as part of our wider trade work – to ensure commitments to uphold UK food standards are kept to.
We will also be working hard to ensure that consumer expertise is represented on the Trade and Agriculture Commission, and that the Commission robustly scurintises food standards in the public interest as part of its work.
Overall, it’s vital trade deals deliver for consumers – be it on food, digital issues, product safety and many more areas – we’ll be keeping a close eye and ensuring the opportunity is taken to champion consumers.