Yesterday the UK government ended speculation about the future of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), after rumours circulated last week suggesting that plans were afoot to close it down completely.
Instead the government has decided to retain the FSA as an independent food safety regulator but shift responsibility for nutrition to the Department of Health (DoH) and give responsibility for COOL labelling and food composition policies to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Reacting to the news, Dairy UK director general Jim Begg said: “The Prime Minister’s decision on the future of the Food Standards Agency is a step in the right direction.”
“Dairy UK supports the retention of a focus on food safety for the FSA in England. It has dealt with very well with this area over the past decade.
“We support shifting the responsibility for nutrition back to the Department of Health. I believe it is better to have all aspects of the population’s health and wellbeing within the same department.
“It also makes sense for Defra - with its understanding of food production and manufacturing - to take on responsibility for country of origin labeling. This is a very important area for the dairy industry, and a very complex one, where we look forward to working with Defra.”
Uncertainty in devolved regions
But Begg expressed some concern about the plans outside England as for the time being, the FSA will retain its nutrition and labelling responsibilities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. No decision has yet been reached on the long-term future of the FSA outside England.
A spokesperson for the DoH said: “Ministers are currently working through this part of arrangements for the devolved regions and arrangements are ongoing.”
On this point, Begg said: “Of course, what we need now is clarity on how all these areas work across the devolved administrations of the UK. Companies operating nationwide need a consistent approach from government - that’s obvious. So we’ll be talking to the Scots, the Northern Irish and the Welsh to understand their thinking on this.”