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A word from the President – December 2018

David Gregory

Writing this at the end of October, it seems every meeting or conference I attend ends with a discussion about the implications of Brexit and what exactly will happen after March 2019.

At the recent celebration of the first anniversary of the University of Reading’s hub of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology Food Initiative, the conversation was around future access to European research funding, the ability to collaborate across frontiers and the attraction and retention of the best researchers. Elsewhere, conversations are around issues like our future relationship with EFSA, which has equally been taking note that 12.5% of its scientific panel members and 25% of some of the more specialised panel members in recent years have been UK nationals.

I am sure many readers of this column have been scrutinising the technical notices prepared by the Department for Exiting the European Union on how to prepare if the UK leaves the EU with no deal. The technical notice on ‘Health marks on meat, fish and the dairy products if there is no Brexit deal’ brought a smile to my face when I read it and noted the comment at the end – ‘This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations’.

It’s very clear a lot of food businesses will turn to their technical teams – many of whom are our members – for this professional advice. In turn, this does raise issues for IFST and the role we should play. Whilst we fully recognise trade associations, other organisations and larger businesses will be playing a leading role in negotiations with the Government, particularly if there is no Brexit deal, it does raise the question what role should IFST play as a professional body at this time?

As a Board of Trustees, we have been taking professional guidance on the Institute’s roles and responsibilities. It is clear we have a responsibility to provide professional recognition and a duty of care to the public in ensuring we uphold professional standards. Less clear is the exact role we should play in offering advice to governments.

We would be interested in hearing your views on the role your professional institute should play at this time and more generally in informing governmental policy. Drop an email to if you have any thoughts.

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