Food Standards Agency

Food Standards Agency
Food Standards Agency (Welsh: Asiantaeth Safonau Bwyd)
Food Standards Agency.svg
Non-ministerial government department overview
Formed April 1, 2000 (2000-04-01)
Jurisdiction United Kingdom
Headquarters Aviation House, 125 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6NH
Annual budget £159.7 million (2009-2010) [1]
Non-ministerial government department executive Jeff Rooker, Chair

The Food Standards Agency is a non-ministerial government department of the Government of the United Kingdom. It is responsible for protecting public health in relation to food throughout the United Kingdom and is led by a board appointed to act in the public interest. Its headquarters are in London, opposite Holborn tube station, with national offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.



It was created in 2000 based on a report by Professor James,[2] issued after a number of high-profile outbreaks and deaths from foodborne illness. It was felt that it was inappropriate to have one government department, the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, responsible for both the health of the farming and food processing industries and for food safety.

Uniquely for a UK Government department, the Food Standards Act gave the Agency the statutory right to publish the advice it gives to Ministers - and as a signal of its independence it declared that it would invariably do so. From its inception the Agency declared that it would take no decisions about food policy except in open Board meetings accessible to the public. Since 2003 these meetings have been webcast live, enabling consumers to see the decision-making process in action. Each Board meeting concludes with a Q&A session in which web viewers can question the Board or its Executive directly.

In 2006, the Wine Standards Board merged with the FSA to take over responsibility for enforcing the EU wine regime in the UK.[3]

Formerly an executive agency of the FSA, the Meat Hygiene Service merged with the FSA in April 2010 to form a new operations group. The operations group has responsibility for the delivery of official controls.[4]

Certain aspects of food labelling policy in England were transferred from the Food Standards Agency to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on 1 September 2010.[5] In England, the Agency retains responsibility for food safety-related labelling issues, whereas the devolved Food Standards Agency offices in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are still responsible for all labelling and standards policy.

Nutrition policy, including nutrition labelling, in England and Wales was transferred from the Food Standards Agency to the Department of Health in England and to the Assembly Government in Wales on 1 October 2010.[6] The Food Standards Agency offices in Scotland and Northern Ireland have retained their responsibilities for nutrition policy.


Sir John Krebs was the first Chair of the Food Standards Agency. He resigned in 2005 to become Principal of Jesus College, Oxford. Dame Deirdre Hutton was Chair between 2005 and July 2009. Jeff Rooker is the current Chair of the Food Standards Agency Board.[7] Tim Bennett is the interim Deputy Chair.[8]

The Agency is advised by a number of independent expert committees, including: the General Advisory Committee on Science, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food, the Committee on Toxicity, the Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes and the Social Science Research Committee.


Recalls and Contamination

In February 2005, the agency announced the discovery of the dye Sudan I in Worcester sauce, prompting a mass recall of over 400 products that used the sauce as a flavouring.

On 31 March 2006, it published its "Survey of benzene levels in soft drinks", which tested 150 products and found that four contained benzene levels above the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for drinking water.[9] The Agency asked for these to be removed from sale.

The Food Standards Agency also imposed restrictions on the sheep trade because of the consequences of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.[10]

Children's advertising

The FSA pushed for stricter rules on TV advertising to children of foods high in salt, sugar and fat and devised a nutritional profiling system to measure the balance of benefit and detriment in individual food products. In 2007 the UK TV Regulator Ofcom introduced restrictions on advertising of products that scored poorly under the scheme.

Food poisoning

In June 2002, and re-released in June 2006, the FSA conducted an advertising campaign on British television, highlighting the danger of food poisoning caused by barbecues. The advert, intended to shock viewers, shows sausages sizzling on a barbecue, looking to the viewer as if they are cooked. However, when a pair of tongs pick up one of these sausages, it falls apart, and reveals pink, uncooked meat in the middle. To emphasize the risk of diarrhoea and vomiting caused by food poisoning, the song "When Will I See You Again" by The Three Degrees is played in the background.[11]

Dean Review

In 2005 Brenda Dean carried out an independent review of the Food Standards Agency. The report made 22 recommendations, all of which were accepted by the Food Standards Agency board.[12]

Brenda Dean concluded:

'My overwhelming impression, having undertaken this Review, is of an organisation that has been extremely conscious of the importance of fulfilling the very serious responsibilities of changing both the perception and the reality of food safety in the UK.

'It has done well in taking forward the experiences, good and bad, of the previous regime, to begin building its own reputation.

'Most stakeholders agreed that the Agency has made significant progress towards improving food safety, gaining public confidence in food safety, and creating a modern culture in which it is the norm for procedures, information, consultation and decision-making to be in the public domain and to involve external stakeholders.

'There was overwhelming support for the Agency’s policy of basing decisions on scientific evidence, and for this policy to be maintained and developed further. The vast majority of stakeholders believe the Agency to be independent and to act independently, with general recognition that decisions are based on scientific evidence.

'There was general support for the Agency amongst all stakeholder groups, both in terms of the objectives of the Agency, and the way in which the Agency has approached and undertaken its responsibilities.'

One principal criticism, identified in the report, was (Recommendation 20):

"It is clear that many stakeholders believe the Agency has already made policy decisions on GM foods and organic foods and is not open to further debate. The Agency must address the perceptions of these stakeholders who have now formed views of the Agency founded on their belief that the basis upon which the Agency’s policy decisions were made was flawed."[13]

See also


  1. ^ Food Standards Agency Annual Report 2009-2010, Food Standards Agency, 2010-12-02,, retrieved 2010-12-18 
  2. ^ "The Food Standards Agency - Preface by the Prime Minister". 1998-01-14. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  3. ^ "Wine Standards Board merges with FSA". Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  4. ^ "New Operations Group for the Agency". Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  5. ^ "Government food labelling changes". Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  6. ^ "Transfer of nutrition policy to health departments". Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  7. ^ Jeff Rooker's profile on Food Standards Agency website[1]
  8. ^ FSA appoints interim Deputy Chair [2]
  9. ^ "Survey of benzene levels in soft drinks". Retrieved 13 May 2011. 
  10. ^ "Post-Chernobyl monitoring and controls survey reports". Food Standards Agency. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  11. ^ - FSA website
  12. ^ "Dean Review". Food Standards Agency. 2005-03-21. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  13. ^ Baroness Brenda Dean (2005-03-01). "2005 Review of the Food Standards Agency" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-12. 

External links

Video clips

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