12 July 2010

Eating the Food Standards Agency

How disappointing to see that the UK Government is going to abolish the National Food Standards Agency (FSA). The closure of the FSA will inevitably shift the balance of power around the communication of food standards in favour of the food industry.

We know that unhealthy diets are a major risk factor driving the ever increasing share of the overall burden of disease accounted for by diet related chronic disease.

We also know that consumers find current labelling schemes confusing and would prefer a simpler scheme such as the one shown in the picture at the top, a scheme resisted by powerful actors within the industry.

Perhaps the FSA was ineffective, although I cannot find an independent review of it. Perhaps the Environment and Health Departments will do a better job of informing us about what we eat than the FSA, although mandates split across Departments always run the risk of being watered down.

But what strikes me most about the story is how different this approach is from that taken by the Department for International Development (DFID). DFID is establishing a new aid watchdog and is focusing more on upstream interventions with the aim of reducing poverty at its roots.

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