/ Food & Drink

Which? win: a new food watchdog for Scotland

Scottish flag with cooking equipment

This week Which?’s campaigns work in Scotland resulted in stronger consumer protection in the food chain, as a new Bill ushered in a tougher independent agency called Food Standards Scotland (FSS).

We’ve worked to ensure consumers will be at the heart of the new food watchdog, and we fought for new powers for FSS to work alongside local authorities to improve enforcement and drive up standards.

The new agency will also be responsible for nutrition, and that’s particularly important because of high levels of obesity in the UK, causing problems such as higher levels of diabetes in the population.

And importantly, the watchdog should be able to access more of the tests the food industry carries out itself, so that they can take action more quickly against food fraud or adulteration.

An open Food Standards Scotland

Together all these issues mean the agency will be better equipped to protect us all – action that’s needed more now than ever before, as our food reaches us via increasingly lengthy and complex routes.

We won a commitment from Government for the new body to be open and accessible, so that it will be responsible to the public, and for them to consult widely with the population when new food technologies and methods arise, so that we all have a voice in how our food is produced.

Our work on behalf of the public strengthened the Bill’s focus on consumers and ensured the Board will operate openly and without an industry focus. Our Make Chicken Safe campaign highlights the risks consumers run and demonstrates the need for the FSS to use all its powers to tackle these issues.

Now we look forward to the new agency’s launch in April – we will be watching closely to ensure no more food scandals slip through the net.

NatalieB says:
14 December 2014

Let’s hope that FSS serves Scotland better than Public Health England serves the rest of us and that the Scottish eatwell plate is based on science that stands up to scrutiny.

When premises are inspected for food hygiene in Scotland they receive either a Pass or Improvement Required certificates. The 0–5 rating in England and Wales is, I believe, an encouragement for owners to do their best. Display of ratings should be mandatory, as it is in Wales.

I don’t feel that the population living south of the border have been told nearly enough about the long standing campylobacter problem and hope that FSS will set a better example.

Why on earth, in a United Kingdom, do we not have a single food agency with the competence and objectives to look after food for all of us? Are Scottish food problems different from the rest of the U? Do we not all need safe chicken? Surely we should be concentrating our resources and expertise, not establishing parallel and costly duplications?

Education is substantially different in Scotland and England. I don’t see any reason why we should change that. Having Food Standards Scotland as a separate body to the Food Standards Agency and doing similar tasks has the advantage that we can explore different ways of doing similar tasks and then sharing good practice.

It’s quite clear from the recent independence referendum that Scotland wants to have a distinct identity. If we must relate to money then it’s a small price to pay to keep Scotland in the UK.

I’m not sure of the connection between education and food being any different. The intro says “The new agency will also be responsible for nutrition, and that’s particularly important because of high levels of obesity in the UK, causing problems such as higher levels of diabetes in the population.”. The “UK”, not just Scotland. Let’s concentrate resources and expertise for the benefit of us all.

We have a Scottish Parliament and Scots Law. If all that mattered was to concentrate resources and expertise we would allow our countries to be run by the EU, but that does not seem a popular option.

Thanks to the Scottish Parliament we have the FSS and I am keen to see how it will perform.

What is the difference in Scotland that requires a separate version of the FSA I wonder? Let alone Scots law. I want to see efficient Governments doing just what is necessary to run the UK competently, not an expansion of public bodies to satisfy nationalism. We need a proper public body – preferably UK-wide – to look after Trading Standards properly. Their “devolved” status appears to leave many of its incarnations toothless. We need action to follow up deficiencies in the food chain, before we have more bodies producing yet more policies.
Anyway, let us hope the FSS talks to the English as well so we can benefit from its activities.

I guess we will have to differ on this, Malcolm. I’ve lived in Scotland and have relations who live there, so I try to keep up with developments. I look forward to hearing more from Julia, who is based at the Scottish offices of Which?

I worked in higher education where cooperation with other people and institutions was for many of us more important than competition and duplication of effort. I envisage that Food Standards Scotland and the Food Standards Agency will work together and hopefully there will be some competition to keep both organisations on their toes.

The background to Food Standards Scotland can be found on this page and associated links: https://www.food.gov.uk/about-us/new-scotland

This still begs the question of why we need to pay for a duplicate body out of public funds – particularly when we are not exactly flush with cash. Why do we not support one central UK food standards body, responsible for research, policy and EU negotiation, with the other UK nations and regions having responsibility for, and using their money, to properly police the food industry? I would prefer to see money used to take action to eliminate sub-standard food and food fraud rather than more beaurocracy.
Maybe I have misunderstood the status of the FSS?

Malcolm – Sometimes it seems as if our government (present and past) is only interested in London and the south of England.

The ban of smoking in public places was introduced in Scotland and just this month, Scotland has lowered the alcohol limit for driving and hopefully England will follow soon.

As I see it, our nationalised industries demonstrated that single bodies were neither the best approach or delivered best value for money. Only time will tell if FSS means more bureaucracy.