The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring people in Scotland live longer, healthier lives. Bad eating habits are the second major cause of ill health in Scotland after smoking. The public cost of dealing with obesity is likely to rise to £3 billion by 2030. Food-borne disease also costs £140 million. More significantly, of the 130,000 consumers contracting food borne disease each year, around 2,000 will be hospitalised and around 50 will die. So making sure we eat a good, nutritious diet of safe, quality food is vital to achieving that ambition.
The current horsemeat incident has thrown into sharp relief the importance of having a single independent public body with clear responsibility for all aspects of food safety and standards in Scotland.
The important principles in delivering better standards are that advice on food safety, nutrition and labelling should be independent and transparent, and should be provided by an organisation which should remain at arm's length from central Government. As Westminster's Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has pointed out recently, these principles were undermined by the UK Government's decision in 2010 to move responsibility for nutrition and food labelling in England from the FSA to the Department of Health and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs respectively.
We had already noted the potential risk to that approach, and it was for precisely this reason that Scottish Ministers took the decision last year to create a new food body for Scotland. The new food body will maintain these important principles.
This consultation on the role of the new food body is an opportunity for consumers as well as industry to tell us what they think about what the new food body should do, and how food safety and standards should be addressed in Scotland in the future. Our aim is to ensure that this consultation helps us deliver an effective and efficient food safety regime. And through that, give consumers in Scotland confidence in the food they eat.
Alex Neil MSP
Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing
Email: Morris Fraser