The rise and fall of the Food Standards Agency

Source: The Telegraph
By Caroline Gammell

The fallout from salmonella, E-coli and BSE in the 1980s and 90s, prompted New Labour decided to set up a dedicated body to cope with any future food scares.

In 2000, they created the Food Standards Agency which was designed – as one minister put it – to “create blue water between us and safety difficulties”.

Its official aim was to protect the public’s health and consumer interests in relation to food.

The main trigger was the panic caused by the BSE crisis in 1996, when the Government announced that a probable link between BSE and vCJD had been established.

In response, the EU banned the export of all UK beef products over 30 months old.

The subsequent furore prompted Labour to include the establishment of a separate food safety body in its 1997 general election manifesto.

Three years later, the FSA became an independent Government department in its own right.

The FSA as it currently stands employs more than 2,000 people and has an annual budget of £135 million.

Its chief executive is Tim Smith, who earns up to £205,000 a year.

Mr Smith, who was appointed in 2008, is the former chief executive of Arla Foods, the largest fresh milk supplier to the UK’s supermarkets.

As a dairy company, it is also responsible for products such as Anchor, Lurpak and Cravendale.

Mr Smith has spent his whole career in the food business, working at Northern Foods, Sara Lee and then Express Dairies.

In addition to a chief executive, the FSA has seven directors responsible for areas such as marketing and finance and three directors each representnig Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

There is also a 13-strong board, which is chaired by Lord Rooker, a Labour peer and former MP who was Minister for Food Safety in 1997.

He is paid £54,000 for a two day week and has voiced his support of GM foods in the past.

Other members of the board include Margaret Gilmore, the former Home Affairs Correspondent for the BBC.

Earlier this year the FSA was accused of becoming an over-bloated quango, which had stretched to 37 committees.

Last month, Andrew Lansley, the Health Secretary, announced that the FSA would be carved up and slimmed down.

Responsibility for nutrition will be absorbed into the Department of Health with 70 posts being transferred departments.

Food labelling policy will be incorporated into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, with 25 jobs moving across.

Mr Lansley said the department would have a “renewed focus” on food safety. The transition has yet to take place, but is being phased in gradually.

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One Response to The rise and fall of the Food Standards Agency

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