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FDF 'relief' at FSA reprieval

Author : By JULIAN HUNT, communication director, Food & Drink Federation

23 July 2010

“We were relieved to hear the news about the future of the Food Standards Agency,” says Julian Hunt of the FDF. “We'd seen the Press reports it was to be axed, and had heard similar rumours around the Westminster village but it wasn’t entirely clear whether there was truth in it.”

“The clarity was, therefore, very welcome.

“FDF has always believed it is important to maintain an independent food safety regulator. The FSA has helped create an environment in which public confidence in the food consumers eat has grown significantly in recent years. So it makes sense to build on that by focusing the Agency’s future activities on safety and hygiene issues.

“There is also merit in the decision to move responsibility for nutrition policy from the FSA back into the Department of Health. This should lead to more consistent policy making, particularly as Secretary of State Andrew Lansley looks to develop a coherent public health policy for England, focusing on issues such as nutrition information and reformulation.

“Although we're confident of being able to work closely with the Department of Health on its new public health strategy, due to be released in the autumn, we've no doubt the conversations will be challenging; announcing the changes, the Department said it would ensure it would be better able to “press industry to contribute more on improving the health of the nation”.

“Responsibility for other food policy issues, such as country of origin labelling, other non-safety-related food labelling and food composition policies in England have moved to Defra. These are very technical topics and the obvious challenge for the coalition Government is ensuring none of the FSA’s clear expertise in these areas is diluted or lost through this transition of responsibility.

“All this comes at a tricky time: the European institutions are currently negotiating the EU Food Information Proposal which has massive implications for the food manufacturing industry. The discussions are now gaining momentum in the Council working group and it is vital that any inevitable disruption caused by these changes does not undermine the UK’s influence on these vital debates.

“In the detail of its announcement, the Government also revealed the Agency will retain its current responsibility for nutrition and labelling policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. At the time of writing this blog nobody is clear how that will work in practice. But what we would obviously like to avoid is a fragmented approach to food policy developing across the British Isles – that would be in nobody’s best interests.

“All in all, we're pleased the future remit of the Agency has been clarified and we'll continue to work closely with our independent regulator to help it deliver its plans for food safety so we maintain the high levels of consumer trust that now exist.”

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