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Don’t ditch the Food Standards Agency

Eggs with painted faces

Last week’s FSA media storm may have settled down (for now) but we’re still backing the independent food regulator. Here’s why we think the FSA should stay.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is being abolished, oh no it isn’t, oh yes it is, oh no it isn’t… oh never mind.

A heady mix of coalition government and eager press gave us a bit of quango panto last week, but for the moment we still have a food agency.

After the storm settled we learnt from the Department of Health that there aren’t any plans – at the moment – to scrap the FSA after all. But it is being reviewed (along with other public bodies) and there is the possibility that some elements – such as its nutrition work – may be moved elsewhere.

The food industry needs you

So does all this matter? Which? lobbied hard for the FSA in the aftermath of BSE, and it has dramatically transformed the way that food issues are handled.

The food industry thinks so too. In light of this story appearing, the Food and Drink Federation came out and reiterated its support for an ‘independent, well-funded food safety regulator’ and said the FSA had been ‘highly effective’.

Funding shouldn’t come first

They’re right. We looked at its progress when it turned 10 in April and praised it in many areas (including its nutrition work on issues such as salt reduction and front of pack nutrition labelling).

We also identified areas it could do better, such as handling new food technologies. But overall we gave it a glowing report for how it makes it decisions. It’s open, transparent and was set up to put the consumer first. So, why would you want to change that?

There’s (quite rightly) a lot of focus on short-term public funding savings at the moment. But that needs to be set against the enormous costs to health and the economy when food policy goes wrong.

Sophie Gilbert says:
21 July 2010

I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about short-term public funding savings set against the enormous costs to health and the economy when food policy goes wrong. Who's the winner in the end?

I would also ask in what way the DoH and Defra are independent.

Finally, the lack of clarity regarding GM, cloned food and nano food makes me shudder…

I’m not sure I’d trust Defra on food labelling. With Food in the same department as Rural Affairs there’s already an implication that the producers’ (farmers’) interests are more important than those of consumers.

Rosemary Hoffman says:
26 October 2010

I am really unsure how DEFRA can deal with food labelling as surely an organisation like the FSA which has special expertise avallable can do better .Also if the food scientists work in one organisstion to deal with fiood safety it is important because food technoligists are trained in a multi disciplinary environment so view problems from a broader perspective.