The UK’s food and drink industry has urged the government to pause current and planned consultations or risk trade associations not responding.

The call came in a letter to environment secretary Michael Gove that was signed by more than 30 trade associations, including the Federation of Bakers, the Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers and Food and Drink Federation. (See full list below.)

It highlighted that business throughout the UK food chain, and their trade associations, were now “totally focused on working to mitigate the catastrophic impact of a no-deal Brexit” with large amounts of time, money, people and effort diverted as a result.

“At this moment of potential crisis for our industry, it cannot be ‘business as usual’ within government,” stated the letter, which was sent to Gove last Friday (8 February).

“Neither we nor our members have the physical resources nor organisational bandwidth to engage with and properly respond to non-Brexit related policy consultations or initiatives at this time.

“Government has recruited many extra staff; we cannot. We very strongly urge you, therefore, to require of your Cabinet colleagues that a range of current and planned consultations that will impact food and drink, some of which are expected shortly, are firmly and clearly placed on ‘pause’ until this uncertainty is over.”

The associations warned that if the government pressed ahead with the consultations it would be seen by some “as a sign of bad faith” and many organisations “may decline to respond”.

Consultations named in the letter included an overhaul of the current producer responsibility programme, proposals for a tax on plastic items with less than 30% recycle content and proposals to further restrict advertising on high fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) food and drink.

The government has already come under fire this year for launching a consultation on banning price promotions, with the FDF branding health chiefs “out of touch with economic realities”.

The full list of signatories are:

  • Ian Wright CBE, chief executive, Food and Drink Federation
  • Paul Rooke, head of policy, Agricultural Industries Confederation
  • Andrew Pollard, president, Association of Bakery Ingredient Manufacturers
  • Pete Robertson, president, Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers
  • David Camp, chief executive, Association of Labour Providers
  • Chris Stemman, director, British Coffee Association
  • Walter Anzer, director general, British Food Importers and Distributors Association
  • John Hyman, chief executive, British Frozen Food Federation
  • Jack Ward, chief executive, British Growers Association
  • Nick Allen, chief executive officer, British Meat Processors Association
  • Richard Griffiths, chief executive, British Poultry Association
  • Declan O’Brien, director general, British Specialist Nutrition Association
  • Nick Bennett, chairman, Council for Responsible Nutrition UK
  • Judith Bryans, chief executive, Dairy UK
  • Gordon Polson, director, Federation of Bakers
  • James Bielby, chief executive, Federation of Wholesale Distributors
  • Nigel Jenny, chief executive, Fresh Produce Consortium
  • David Thomson, chief executive officer, Food and Drink Federation Scotland
  • Andy Richardson, chairman, Food and Drink Wales Industry Board
  • Graham Keen, executive director, Health Food Manufacturers’ Association
  • Liz Murphy, chief executive officer, International Meat Trade Association
  • Bob Price, director and policy advisor, National Association of Cider Manufacturers
  • Terry Jones, director general, National Farmers’ Union
  • Michael Bell, executive director, Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association
  • Dick Searle, chief executive, Packaging Federation
  • Andrew Curtis, director general, Potato Processors’ Association
  • Andrew Kuyk CBE, director general, Provision Trade Federation
  • James Withers, chief executive, Scotland Food and Drink
  • Simon Cripps, executive chairman, Seasoning and Spice Association
  • James Smith, chairman, UK Flavour Association
  • Kate Nicholls, chief executive officer, UK Hospitality
  • Dr. Sharon Hall, chief executive, UK Tea & Infusions Association