As the late, great Hollywood mogul Louis B Meyer said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.” First, it was the Animal By-Products regulation that the Government sneaked out on an incredulous food industry and now they are doing it again.

This time, new lunacy comes in the form of an additional requirement to the EU Organic Food Regulation that will burden the wholesale industry with red tape and extra costs while not imposing the same on our competitors, the major supermarkets.

The requirement says that wholesalers selling branded, pre-packaged organic products must register with one of 10 approved UK certification bodies, such as the Soil Association and the Organic Food Federation, and then be subject to an annual assessment by it.

As soon as this development came to light, the FWD demanded an urgent meeting with the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and called for it to relieve the wholesale channel of these discriminatory costs.

There has been no Government assessment of the cost to industry, but Defra says: “There are charges for inspection and certification and the bodies concerned will supply details.” You bet your sweet life they will charge, but how much and for what?
Defra answers that the EU has introduced this new requirement as a result of concerns about possible contamination and/or substitution of organic products during their storage and to further ensure that there is an audit for the entire organic process.

Remember, the organic products we are talking about in wholesale are important, but relatively low volume. And they are branded and securely packaged by suppliers of repute.
What can an inspector from the Soil Association achieve in a cash and carry that is not already covered by the environmental health officer from the local council?

Wholesalers do not buy and stock organic products in bulk or of obscure origin – they participate in exactly the same consumer market as the supermarkets whose storage and distribution centres are not lumbered with these inspections and costs. With all the Government’s talk of deregulation and cutting red tape, this one really takes the biscuit – possibly a Duchy Original one containing 65% organic oats!

Meanwhile, I should remind foodservice people to book their Catersummit tickets – the dates are October 3 and 4 at the Chesford Grange Hotel, Kenilworth.

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