AN INDEPENDENT expert panel set up by Scottish Ministers to consider the future delivery of the food standards regime in Scotland has submitted its report to Ministers.
A majority of the panel believe a standalone Scottish Food Standards Agency (FSA) represents the best outcome for Scotland’s long-term interests. The panel member from Which?, the consumer body, favoured enhancing the status quo.
Chaired by the UK’s former chief vet, Jim Scudamore, the panel was set up following the UK Government’s decision in 2010 to absorb some of the policy areas overseen in England by the FSA, a UK-wide body, back into Whitehall departments.
This has resulted in a situation where a UK-wide agency carries out different food standard functions in different parts of the UK.
The review panel was asked to consider the feasibility of establishing a dedicated Scottish FSA, and also the merits of establishing a standalone meat inspection delivery service in Scotland.
Mr Scudamore said: “I would like to thank the members of the expert panel and all those who made the time to help us and for their willingness to give us the benefits of their knowledge and skills. During the review we consulted key stakeholders and received valuable assistance from the Food Standards Agency.”
- Food safety should not be divorced from nutrition and labelling. Advice on food safety, nutrition and labelling should be independent, evidence-based, consumer focused and transparent
- Advice on food safety, nutrition and labelling should be provided by an organisation which should remain at arms length from central government
- After considering all the issues, the panel reached a majority view in favour of a standalone Food Standards Agency which would offer the best outcome for Scotland’s long term interests, offering more certainty than an enhanced model. The standalone model would allow more flexibility to respond quickly to Scottish needs. It would enable the new body to take the most relevant and necessary decisions for Scotland without being subsidiary to UK priorities
- The responsibility for the policy oversight and the operational delivery of official controls for meat inspection services should remain independent the Scottish Government, as well as the food industry
- Responsibility for the policy oversight and the operational delivery of official controls should remain part of the wider food safety portfolio governance arrangements that are put in place in Scotland
- The elements of the Meat Inspection Service that are relevant to Scotland should be transferred to the FSA in Scotland (whether an enhanced FSA or a new stand-alone Scottish FSA), to be under the operational control of the Director of the FSA in Scotland.