CURRENT ISSUES
Food and Drink

More than 330,000 foodservice operators and 73,000 retailers rely on FWD members for the supply of fresh, chilled and frozen food – often delivered daily, and ready to go straight on the menu or the counter.

FWD represents wholesalers in reactive action by government, for example taking the lead in representing the industry on issues such as Free School Meals, Holiday Hunger and wider health and obesity issues. FWD is on the board of the School Food Plan Alliance, which brings together organisations with an interest in school food and attend the regular meetings of the School Food All Party Parliamentary Group.

 

We are also actively involved in the formulation of food regulation. We work with the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs to produce guidance on the new Food Information to Consumers regulations, and bring members together to discuss how best to implement the requirements.

In addition, FWD represents members’ views on economic controls on food supply, such as the Soft Drinks Levy, to ensure that unintended consequences of intervention are taken into account, such as the growth of a grey market.

FWD recognises the role that alcohol plays in contributing to anti-social behaviour and health harms, and supports across-the-board measures that consider the supply of alcohol equally, such as minimum unit pricing.

on your plate
On the radar this month:

Allergens

FWD takes its responsibilities seriously as more than 330,000 foodservice operators and 73,000 retailers rely on FWD members for the supply of fresh, chilled and frozen food – often delivered daily, and ready to go straight on the menu or the counter. Ensuring people live, eat and drink healthily is therefore crucial.

Given the vital importance of allergen labelling, wholesalers would like to see more done to give allergy sufferers greater confidence in the safety of their food. This could be done by mandating manufacturers to place allergen information in a central repository, which would allow food operators to easily access allergen information.

Currently there are multiple such systems which exist. A centralised database would only require manufactures to provide information once. Another benefit of this system is that it would easily communicate product recalls.

We are calling on the Government to:

  • Introduce a central allergens database for all food product ingredients that wholesalers can access to ensure they can flag any potential allergens to customers
  • We strongly believe the Government should mandate such a database as this system would be fundamental in ensuring the changes to allergen labelling are robust and reliable and provide greater security for consumers
  • Work with the Food Standards Agency and local authorities to use a centralised database to communicate product recalls

DRS in Scotland

December 11: The Scottish Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee has released its  report on the draft Deposit Return Scheme regulations.

Key points to note:

  • A minimum 20p deposit but there should be the option for the scheme administrator to set a variable rate
  • The Committee recommends that similar to retailers, the introduction of the Scheme should be cost neutral for wholesalers. The Committee asks the Scottish Government to provide assurance that this will be the case and provide clarification on how the additional costs to wholesalers will be treated.
  • The Committee also recommended that the single industry led Scheme Administrator should be set up with representatives from all parts of the supply chain including wholesalers.
  • The Committee can see merit in introducing a variable producer fee
  • Glass to be included
  • Deposit should not be subject to the application of VAT
  • Inclusion of online sales is critical
  • If industry wishes to see a UK wide Scheme in operation it could extend the Scottish Scheme to other parts of the UK or it could encourage the UK Government to bring forward proposals for a DRS
  • The Scottish Government to provide clarity on the impact of DRS on free movement of goods
  • The Scottish Government to confirm that containers in scope for DRS will be excluded from the Packaging Recovery Note (PRN) system from the outset of the Scheme
  • Preference is for the establishment of a single Scheme Administrator which represents all parts of the supply chain
  • Ensure that the enforcement framework is in place and robust at the time the Scheme comes into operation
  • Recognises the concerns in relation to the potential for fraud. The Committee asks the Scottish Government to provide an assessment of additional provisions or support that may be necessary both to prevent, and to detect, potential fraud

The Scottish Government will respond to the Committee’s report within two months. In the new year, a final version of the draft regulations will be laid in the Scottish Parliament for consideration. The Environment Committee then has a further 40 days (excluding recesses) to consider it again, and report on it.

Energy Drinks

The Government has announced a ban on sales of energy drinks to children. FWD gave oral evidence to the Science and Health committee on this topic and have been at the forefront of this debate, and welcome the announcement for the clarity it provides to retailers.
 
Wholesalers of energy drinks are clear to their customers about the suitability of energy drinks and clearly label high caffeine soft drinks as not recommended for children.

Any coordinated voluntary action by the 70,000 retailers served by FWD members is extremely challenging as the majority are independent retailers. The announcement by the Government that energy drinks require an mandatory age restriction is welcome for the clarity it provides to those retailers.

More than half of wholesale customers operate under a symbol group brand. While these retailers operate under a fascia, they remain independent and it is up to each individual retailer to decide their store’s procedures. Wholesalers can encourage policies in-store but do not have any power to enforce them. Unlike franchises, symbol groups are usually only based on a wholesale purchase agreement rather than formally requiring stores to follow strict operating procedures.

Soft drinks levy

The Soft Drinks Industry Levy which require manufacturers and importers of soft drinks to pay a levy on high sugar products went live on April 6 2018. The levy is made up of two rates: 18p per litre if the drink has 5g of sugar or more per 100ml and 24p per litre if the drink has 8g of sugar or more per 100ml.

Ahead of its introduction FWD has been working with Coca-Cola European Partners and the British Soft Drinks Association to highlight the potential fraud risks of the sugar tax, which includes a trade press campaign to highlight the issue to retailers and encouraging them to report any suspicious activity to HMRC.

What you can do: If you notice any drop off in sales of high sugar soft drink skus, or retailers say they’ve been offered these lines at very low prices, please let us know, or report it to the Customs Hotline