A full plate of policies

Several new food laws are on the way and it’s never too early to start preparing, says Leon Thompson of UK Hospitality Scotland

CHANGES on food policy are coming, so it’s more important than ever that the industry works together, writes Leon Thompson of UK Hospitality Scotland.

In May this year Food Standards Scotland published its strategy and corporate plan, setting out bold ambitions to tackle obesity and to encourage healthier eating.

A key feature in this approach is working with the out of home sector, which according to data obtained by Food Standards Scotland had, pre-pandemic, seen a significant increase; a trend that continued during the pandemic with increases in the consumption of takeaways.

The intentions were further highlighted in the Scottish Government’s Programme for Government, published in September. Food, calories, fat, salt and sugar are the target of this work in a drive to encourage healthier eating.

Pubs, bars and restaurants will all need to adapt to changes once they come into force.

At the moment the Scottish Government is committed to introducing legislation at some point in the lifetime of this parliament. However, it’s never too early to prepare.

On 1st October legislation covering food Pre-packaged for Direct Sale (PPDS), also known as Natasha’s Law, came into force requiring all businesses preparing pre-wrapped foods to take away to carry labelling which covered all allergens.

According to Food Standards Scotland and feedback from UK Hospitality Scotland members the changes have been introduced successfully and the new approach is working well.

Of course this comes at a cost to businesses, with workers spending time preparing labels, often on new hardware and using new software that has been purchased for the task.

UK Hospitality Scotland is working closely with Food Standards Scotland, with a strong relation developed which can help to ensure the burdens on businesses of other food policy are lessened and managed in a way that gives owners, operators and workers time to prepare for changes.

As part of this, Food Standards Scotland presented to the UK Hospitality Food Experts Group at the start of November, setting out the agenda for change and what this could mean for hospitality businesses.

A key change that is coming is mandatory calorie labelling.

This will bring Scotland into line with proposals in England, although the application of policy may not be an exact match.

A full consultation will launch in the second half of January 2022 and it will be vital that businesses get their point of view across as part of the process. UK Hospitality Scotland will ensure that details of the consultation are shared as it goes live.

We’ll also be working to ensure smaller businesses are taken out of scope and that the application of calorie labelling on menus and websites is made as simple as possible, causing the minimum disruption to businesses and delivered in a way that is useful and meaningful for customers.

Businesses should also be aware that the Scottish Government plans to introduce calorie labelling for alcohol.

We’re already bringing the experience and insight of our work with the UK Government and the Food Standards Agency to bear in the conversations here in Scotland.

Engagement is key and Food Standards Scotland are undertaking a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) on this proposal.

The BRIA process will help ensure the steps the Scottish Government proposes taking are proportionate.

To ensure accuracy of the impacts it would be helpful for businesses to take part in a survey which is running just now.

The survey contains 20 short questions and closes on 10th December. You can find it here.

The scope of the questions is wide and not all areas may be applicable to you. But your views matter so please complete the sections you can.

Changes will be coming, so let’s work together to ensure burdens are light and applied only where is absolutely necessary.

  • Leon Thompson is executive director at UK Hospitality Scotland.