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Feb 19

Beefy Lessons for the FSA

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The Food Standards Agency and the Financial Services Authority, as well as sharing an acronym, could both learn lessons about regulation. (I know that the Prudential Regulation Authority is technically becoming the regulator but the pun of the FSA was too good to resist).

No tests had been done for Horse DNA in beef for six years. Prices meant that it wasn’t worth replacing beef with horse – until mechanically recovered meat was banned and there was a glut  of horsemeat in Romania. There is a strong argument for regulators to just concentrate on where sales are rocketing or prices are volatile – simply because as the bank robber says “that’s where the money is”.

There is a strong argument that as this wasn’t a food safety issue then the regulator should not be responsible. The supermarkets and brands selling the adulterated meat were legally responsible for ensuring that it was what it said on the packet. The withdrawal of beefburgers are said to have cost the Tesco supermarket chain £1M. It’s a shame that they hadn’t spent £1,000 on some testing.

The supermarkets and brands can’t claim ignorance, or just rely on suing their suppliers. They have to take responsibility for the products they were selling. They also have to take responsibility for the incentives they placed on suppliers, and ensuring the integrity of their supply chain.

The regulatory regime must match the geographic reach of the market it is covering. If processed products are passing through five or six countries in their supply chain, the policing is not up to the trading standards in town of the supermarket where the product is sold. It requires coordination between all the regulators. If this is lacking there is opportunity for regulatory arbitrage with the unscrupulous traders playing off one regime against the other, or simply changing the description of the products in transit.

Permanent link to this article: http://transformingfinance.eu/beefy-lessons-for-the-fsa/