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UK Food Standards Agency to be abolished - report

By Rory Harrington, 12-Jul-2010

Related topics: Quality, Safety, Hygiene, Safety & Regulation

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to be broken up with its food safety and nutritional roles handed over to separate government departments, according to reports.

The proposed abolition of the food watchdog would see its safety functions assigned to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), while the Department of Health would lead on issues relating to public health nutrition and diet, said Reuters.

The Food and Drink Federation (FDF), a leading UK industry body, said it would wait for the announcement to be made before commenting but, in principle, believed in the need for a stand-alone food safety regulator.

Under review

The plan is thought to be part of swingeing cost-cutting measures tabled by the new coalition Government to reduce waste and bureaucracy. The Department of Health (DoH) today refused to confirm or deny the shake up ahead of announcing a string of new measures in its White Paper but FoodProductionDaily.com understands that the FSA will not be mentioned in the impending legislative proposals spearheaded by Minister Andrew Lansley.

“No decision has been taken over the Food Standards Agency (FSA),” said a DoH spokesperson. “All Arms Length Bodies will be subject to a review.”

Independent food safety regulator

If true, the proposal is likely to spark concern as the FSA was formed a decade ago after a number of major contamination crises such as BSE saw the collapse of public trust in the government’s ability to manage food safety. Questions were raised about a possible conflict of interest over a single department regulating both food producers and food processors. The formation of the FSA as a dedicated and independent watchdog was seen by many an effective way to address those anxieties.

The Food and Drink Federation, while stressing that it would wait to see the actual proposals, backed the need for a stand-alone food safety body.

“At the moment we are still unclear about what is actually happening with the FSA,” said a FDF spokesperson. “Andrew Lansley has always been pretty open about his intention to bring nutrition back into the Department of Health but we have always believed that there is a need for an independent well funded food safety regulator.”