Food Standards Agency

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 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is led by a board appointed to act in the public interest. Its headquarters are in London, with offices in York, Birmingham, Wales and Northern Ireland[1]. The agency had a national office in Scotland until the formation of Food Standards Scotland in April 2015.

Food Standards Agency
Welsh: Asiantaeth Safonau Bwyd
Food Standards Agency
Non-ministerial government department overview
Formed1 April 2000
JurisdictionEngland, Wales and Northern Ireland
HeadquartersPetty France,
London, SW1[1]
Annual budget£159.7 million (2009-2010) [2]
Non-ministerial government department executive
  • Heather Hancock, Chair


The Agency was created in 2001 based on a report by Professor James,[3] issued after several high-profile outbreaks and deaths from foodborne illness. It was felt that it was inappropriate to have one government department, the Ministry of 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 question and answer 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.[4]

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.[5]

Certain aspects of United Kingdom food labelling regulations in England were transferred from the Food Standards Agency to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) on 1 September 2010.[6] In England, the Agency retains responsibility for food safety-related labelling issues, whereas the devolved Food Standards Agency offices in 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 and Social Care in England and to the Welsh Government's Department of Health and Social Services on 1 October 2010.[7] The Food Standards Agency offices in Scotland and Northern Ireland have retained their responsibilities for nutrition policy.

Plans to create a new food standards body in Scotland were announced by Ministers in June 2012[8] and in January 2015 this new body was established through primary legislation. Food Standards Scotland took over from the FSA on 1 April 2015 as the public body responsible for food safety, food standards, nutrition, food labelling and meat inspection in Scotland.[9]


Sir John Krebs was the first Chair of the Food Standards Agency, until 2005. Dame Deirdre Hutton was Chair between 2005 and July 2009, followed by Jeff Rooker until July 2013. Tim Bennett, the former Deputy Chair, was appointed as interim Chair whilst a permanent appointment was made.[10] Heather Hancock was appointed the new Chair on 1 April 2016, for a three-year term, and reappointed for a further three year term from 1 April 2019. [11]

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


Recalls and contamination

In February 2005, the agency announced the discovery of the dye Sudan I in Worcester sauce, prompting a mass product 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.[12] 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[13] which were repealed in March 2012.[14]

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.[15]

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.[16]

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):[17]

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.

Food Hygiene Rating Scheme (FHRS)

A food hygiene rating scheme has been deployed by the Food Safety Agency for all food businesses. Ratings are available at the business premises and online. Following a meeting in Cardiff, the FSA plans to make audit reports as widely available as possible for the public. According to Terence Collins, FSA’s Director of communication, the reason behind this decision is to make ratings simple and easily understood for every single business.

Apart from Scotland which is under a very simple Food Hygiene Information Scheme, the FSA’s Food Hygiene Rating Scheme will be tested throughout United Kingdom. As a result, ratings will range from 0 (improvement urgently needed) to 5 (very good), and may be displayed on a certificate. This information will also be made available online. Rating primary meat processing plants is the next step forward for the FSA, as meat audit are currently only available through Freedom of Information requests.[18]

The local authority in Rutland is believed to the only one which has not accepted the scheme.[19]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Contact us". Food Standards Agency. Retrieved 4 November 2018.
  2. ^ Food Standards Agency Annual Report 2009-2010, Food Standards Agency, 2 December 2010, retrieved 18 December 2010
  3. ^ "The Food Standards Agency - Preface by the Prime Minister". 14 January 1998. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Wine Standards Board merges with FSA" (Press release). Food Standards Agency. 13 May 2006. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012.
  5. ^ "New Operations Group for the Agency" (Press release). Food Standards Agency. 31 March 2010. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013.
  6. ^ "Government food labelling changes" (Press release). Food Standards Agency. 1 September 2010. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013.
  7. ^ "Transfer of nutrition policy to health departments" (Press release). Food Standards Agency. 30 September 2010. Archived from the original on 18 April 2013.
  8. ^ "New Scottish food standards body planned". BBC News. BBC. 27 June 2012.
  9. ^ "About us: A new food body for Scotland". Food Standards Agency. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  10. ^ "Appointment extension for FSA Chair" (Press release). Food Standards Agency. 14 January 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
  11. ^ "FSA chair appointment" (Press release). Food Standards Agency. 4 March 2016.
  12. ^ "Survey of benzene levels in soft drinks" (Press release). Food Standards Agency. 31 March 2006. Archived from the original on 6 February 2012.
  13. ^ "Post-Chernobyl monitoring and controls survey reports". Food Standards Agency. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  14. ^ "Post Chernobyl sheep controls to be removed". Food Standards Agency. 20 March 2012.
  15. ^ - FSA website
  16. ^ "Dean Review". Food Standards Agency. 21 March 2005. Archived from the original on 14 October 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  17. ^ Baroness Brenda Dean (1 March 2005). "2005 Review of the Food Standards Agency" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 12 July 2010.
  18. ^ "Simple certification of food hygiene ratings". Retrieved 31 July 2012.
  19. ^ "The Battle of Rutland: Why the council refuses to sign up to the FSA food hygiene rating scheme". Independent. 22 August 2015. Retrieved 23 August 2015.

External links


2,4-Dinitrophenol (2,4-DNP or simply DNP) is an organic compound with the formula HOC6H3(NO2)2. It is a yellow, crystalline solid that has a sweet, musty odor. It sublimes, is volatile with steam, and is soluble in most organic solvents as well as aqueous alkaline solutions. It is a precursor to other chemicals and is biochemically active, inhibiting adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production in cells with mitochondria. Its use in high doses as a dieting aid has been identified with severe side-effects, including a number of deaths.

Alison Tedstone

Alison Tedstone RNutr FAfN (born April 1961) is Chief Nutritionist (National Director of Diet & Obesity) at Public Health England (PHE).

Brain Licker

Brain Licker is a type of confectionery manufactured by Key Enterprises. It is typically sold in small bottles plugged with a ball which revolves when licked, delivering its sour liquid content. It is about as acidic as lemon juice and excessive consumption can lead to burns, blisters or small cuts in children's mouths. In 2003 the British Food Standards Agency issued warnings to parents regarding this as well as possible choking hazards. There are several different flavours of Brain Licker, the most popular of which are strawberry, peach, apple, blue raspberry, grape, blackberry, lemon, watermelon and cola.

Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport

The Minister for Health and Social Service was a cabinet position in the Welsh Government until 2016. The minister was responsible for the running of the National Health Service in Wales, all aspects of public health and health protection in Wales, the Food Standards Agency in Wales, post-graduate medical education and any charges for NHS services. Under the Government of the 4th Assembly (2016) the position was abolished with responsibilities being shared between the Minister for Social Services & Public Health and the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being & Sport.

Committee on Toxicity

The Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) is a UK independent scientific committee that provides advice to the Food Standards Agency, the Department of Health and other Government Departments and Agencies on matters concerning the toxicity of chemicals.It has a number of working groups that publish reports, e.g. one on Phytoestrogens.

Pharmacologist Frank Woods was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2001 Birthday Honours, for services to the committee.

Dixy Chicken

Dixy Chicken is a fast food chain that specializes in halal chicken. The company was founded by two British Pakistanis, who offered halal versions of products found in McDonald's and KFC. It is owned by an English company, SABT2 Limited. Dixy Chicken was founded in 1986, and has 110 outlets within the United Kingdom.

There are four in Syria, and one each in France, Norway, and Egypt, as well as India, Brunei, Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.

E number

E numbers ("E" stands for "Europe") are codes for substances that are permitted to be used as food additives for use within the European Union (EU) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA). Commonly found on food labels, their safety assessment and approval are the responsibility of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).Having a single unified list for food additives was first agreed upon in 1962 with food colouring. In 1964, the directives for preservatives were added, 1970 for antioxidants and 1974 for the emulsifiers, stabilisers, thickeners and gelling agents.

Environmental Health Registration Board

The Environmental Health Registration Board (EHRB) is a body in the United Kingdom which issues certificates of registration on completion of approved professional qualification programmes and accredits courses of study.The organisation maintains a register of people who have been issued with such certificates.

Additionally EHRB conducts practice-related assessments of technical support staff who are undertaking accredited courses of study.

The EHRB's activities are closely associated with many aspects of the works of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) and its Education and Professional Standards Unit. The Board's directors are mainly CIEH Trustees, drawn from the Education and Professional Standards Board, although nominations to the Board may be made by the Secretary of State for Health (up to two persons), government departments or agencies with an interest in environmental health (for example the Food Standards Agency). Other persons with an appropriate interest in environmental health may also be appointed by the Board.

Food Standards Scotland

Food Standards Scotland (Scottish Gaelic: Inbhe-Bidhe Alba) is a non-ministerial government department of the Scottish Government. It is responsible for food safety, food standards, nutrition, food labelling and meat inspection in Scotland. Established by the Food (Scotland) Act 2015, Food Standards Scotland has taken over the responsibilities of the UK-wide organisation, the Food Standards Agency, in Scotland.

Frozen food

Freezing food preserves it from the time it is prepared to the time it is eaten. Since early times, farmers, fishermen, and trappers have preserved grains and produce in unheated buildings during the winter season. Freezing food slows down decomposition by turning residual moisture into ice, inhibiting the growth of most bacterial species. In the food commodity industry, there are two processes: mechanical and cryogenic (or flash freezing). The freezing kinetics is important to preserve the food quality and texture. Quicker freezing generates smaller ice crystals and maintains cellular structure. Cryogenic freezing is the quickest freezing technology available due to the ultra low liquid nitrogen temperature −196 °C (−320 °F).Preserving food in domestic kitchens during modern times is achieved using household freezers. Accepted advice to householders was to freeze food on the day of purchase. An initiative by a supermarket group in 2012 (backed by the UK's Waste & Resources Action Programme) promotes the freezing of food "as soon as possible up to the product's 'use by' date". The Food Standards Agency was reported as supporting the change, providing the food had been stored correctly up to that time.

Jeff Rooker

Jeffrey William Rooker, Baron Rooker, PC (born 5 June 1941) is a British politician, who served as the Labour Member of Parliament (MP) for Birmingham Perry Barr from 1974 until 2001. He was later appointed to the House of Lords, being created a life peer on 16 June 2001 with the title Baron Rooker, of Perry Barr in the County of the West Midlands, where he was appointed to the Government for a year as the Minister of State for Asylum and Immigration. He resigned the Labour whip in 2009 after being appointed Chairman of the Food Standards Agency and sat as an Independent member in the House of Lords until 2013 when, standing down as FSA Chairman, he took up the Labour whip once again.

Oily fish

Oily fish have oil in their tissues and in the belly cavity around the gut. Their fillets contain up to 30% oil, although this figure varies both within and between species. Examples include small forage fish, such as sardines, herring and anchovies, and other larger pelagic fish, such as salmon, trout, tuna, swordfish and mackerel.Oily fish can be contrasted with white fish, which contain oil only in the liver, and much less overall than oily fish. Examples of white fish are cod, haddock and flatfish. White fish are usually demersal fish which live on or near the seafloor, whereas oily fish are pelagic, living in the water column away from the bottom.

Oily fish meat is a good source of vitamins A and D, and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids (white fish also contain these nutrients but at a much lower concentration). For this reason the consumption of oily fish rather than white fish can be more beneficial to humans, particularly concerning cardiovascular diseases; however, oily fish are known to carry higher levels of contaminants (such as mercury or dioxin or POPs) than whitefish. Among other benefits, studies suggest that the omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish may help improve inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Packaging gas

A packaging gas is used to pack sensitive materials such as food into a modified atmosphere environment. The gas used is usually inert, or of a nature that protects the integrity of the packaged goods, inhibiting unwanted chemical reactions such as food spoilage or oxidation. Some may also serve as a propellant for aerosol sprays like cans of whipped cream. For packaging food, the use of various gases is approved by regulatory organisations.Their E numbers are included in the following lists in parentheses.

Sid the Slug

Sid the Slug is an advertising character created by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in the United Kingdom as the mascot of the "Salt - Watch it" campaign to warn the public of the risks of excessive salt consumption.The multimedia campaign, including advertising hoardings, television commercials and Internet coverage, was based on the premise that salt kills slugs, and can harm humans too. The Salt Manufacturers' Association filed a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, their complaint being that the information presented was misleading. The Advertising Standards Authority did not uphold the SMA complaint in its adjudication.The ASA had to deal with another complaint from a member of the public, that the use of the name "Sid" was offensive; this was also rejected, with the ASA instead arguing that most people would find it "humorous".A member of the public complained to the FSA that the Welsh subtitles in the ‘Sid the Slug’ TV advertisements meant the FSA was not treating English and Welsh equally, as is required by the FSA Welsh Language Scheme. The FSA replied that the animation could not have been dubbed into Welsh successfully, hence the subtitles. However, the FSA accepted that it had not complied with advertising conduct, as set by the Welsh Language Board.

Sodium benzoate

Sodium benzoate is a substance which has the chemical formula C6H5COONa. It is a widely used food preservative, with an E number of E211. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved in water. It can be produced by reacting sodium hydroxide with benzoic acid.

Taunton Deane services

Taunton Deane services is a double sided motorway service station on the M5 motorway near Taunton, England. It is owned by Roadchef.

Tin poisoning

Tin poisoning refers to the toxic effects of tin and its compounds. Cases of poisoning from tin metal, its oxides, and its salts are "almost unknown"; on the other hand certain organotin compounds are almost as toxic as cyanide.

Valerie Howarth, Baroness Howarth of Breckland

Valerie Georgina Howarth, Baroness Howarth of Breckland, OBE (born 5 September 1940) is a British politician and a member of the House of Lords, sitting as a crossbencher.

She was made an OBE in the 1999 Birthday Honours, she was created a life peer on 25 June 2001 with the title Baroness Howarth of Breckland, of Parson Cross in the County of South Yorkshire. She is one of the board members of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service.Lady Howarth became the Chair of Cafcass (Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service) on 8 December 2008. Valerie Howarth is Former Chief Executive of ChildLine and also worked for many years at Chief Officer and Assistant Chief Officer level in social services departments. She serves on the Board of the Food Standards Agency, is Trustee of a number of Children’s charities and a patron of the National Youth Advocacy Scheme.

She was vice-chair of the National Care Standards Commission and is secretary to the All Parliamentary Children's Group.

Yellow 2G

Yellow 2G is a food coloring denoted by E number E107 with the Colour Index CI18965. It has the appearance of a yellow powder, and it is soluble in water. It is a synthetic yellow azo dye.

It is not listed by the UK's Food Standards Agency among EU approved food additives. Its use is also banned in Austria, Japan, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States.

Adulterants, food contaminants
Parasitic infections through food
Sugar substitutes
Toxins, poisons, environment pollution
Food contamination incidents
Regulation, standards, watchdogs


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