A Healthier Scotland: Creating a New Food Body: Consultation Analysis

Full report of the analysis of the written responses to the Scottish Government consultation on the role and remit of the proposed new food body.



10.1 The new food body will be consumer-focused. The FSA engages with consumers in a number of ways, to consult and to provide information or advice. One method is by means of a consumer panel. The FSA in Scotland, in addition, engages with 'seldom-heard' consumers through a variety of organisations already engaged with these groups.

10.2 The consultation asked:

Question 14: Do you have any suggestions about how the new food body can engage effectively with consumers, both in developing policy and providing information and advice?

10.3 Seventy two (57%) of the 126 respondents addressed this question. Overall there was much support and respect for the work previously undertaken by FSA in engaging with consumers, with 23 respondents requesting explicitly that this type of work continues. A recurring view was that consumers should be represented on the new food body's advisory committees and dialogue with SFELC which includes consumer interests should continue.

10.4 Two public bodies suggested that the new food body develops a formal strategy for communication with consumers.

Views on providing information and advice

10.5 General comments on providing information to consumers were that transparency and openness in information provision is required (Third); and that the new food body needs to understand the perspectives of different consumers in order to present not merely factual information, but advice which is in tune with their lifestyles and available choices (Acad).

10.6 An emphasis was made on the need for consistency of message, which some felt was lacking at present. It was suggested that this could be achieved by establishing the new food body as a "one-stop-shop" for advice (IRB); and closer collaboration with other relevant stakeholders to ensure that crucial messages are agreed and presented in a united fashion (Acad).

10.7 Some respondents commented on appropriate formats for information and advice, with calls for user-friendly, readily understood messages (IRB, PB, PB), in layman's terms (PB, LA). One view was:

"Messages need to be clear and accessible, not 'preachy' or seen to be targeted only at middle class audiences" (Midlothian Food and Health Alliance).

10.8 Two respondents (Acad, Third) questioned the use of the word "consumers" in this context, expressing concern that the word may in reality be a barrier to engagement, with negative connotations. One remarked:

"The term 'consumers' implies that people are passive users rather than active citizens engaged in their own health" (Children in Scotland).

10.9 A recurring view (6 mentions) was that the new food body could benefit from collaborative work with organisations experienced in providing information to the public, such as NHS Health Scotland, Citizens Advice local networks and healthcare professionals such as local nutritionists.

10.10 Specific routes to providing information and advice were highlighted:

  • website (Acad, PB, Third)
  • face-to-face in supermarkets (especially useful as an alternative to IT routes) (IRB, Acad)
  • media (Acad, PB)
  • emails akin to the current FSA email system which provides information about food incidents/ recalls (Ind)
  • newsletter (Ind)
  • using the food hygiene rating scale (Bus).

Views on engaging with consumers

10.11 A general view was that engagement with consumers should be mainstreamed into the work of the new food body rather than added on as an extra (Cons, Cons, Ind). One respondent remarked:

"Consumer engagement needs to be an in-house and mainstream activity for the new food body so that consumers' views are part of the development of policy from an early stage - these cannot be patched on at the end" (Ind).

10.12 One local authority recommended that consideration is given to whether enough weight is attached to consumers' views. Others (PB, PB, Prof A&U) advocated a wide range of consultation mechanisms be deployed in order to reach different sectors of the population.

10.3 The challenges of engaging with 'hard to reach' consumers (low income, young people, vulnerable consumers were mentioned in this regard) were raised by five respondents from a range of sectors. A recurring view amongst industry representative bodies and public bodies (5 mentions) was that care should be taken that views gathered are truly representative of the wide range of population sectors.

10.4 One respondent (Third) identified a lack of resources available to small third sector organisations as a potential challenge to furthering engagement with consumers.

10.5 A common view was that research methodologies should be deployed to seek views of consumers. One respondent (Third) suggested that the new food body should develop a formal, ongoing programme of action research. Others agreed that there is a need for more interactive, qualitative research (Acad), supported by a significant research budget (Cons).

10.6 Some respondents specified research techniques which they felt would be particularly appropriate for seeking consumers' views:

  • focus groups (e.g. with shoppers; chefs) (Ind, Ind)
  • deliberative engagement (Ind, Cons)
  • consumer panels (Third, IRB)
  • participatory research (Third)
  • citizen's juries (Third).

10.7 Other recommendations for engaging with consumers were:

  • via social media (11 mentions)
  • a dedicated Food App (4 mentions)
  • public meetings (Third)
  • attending road shows (Ind)
  • attending food and drink events (Bus)
  • online forum (Ind)
  • website area for voting and providing suggestions (akin to the 10 Downing Street concept) (Ind).

10.8 A common view (10 mentions) was that the new food body should liaise with those organisations who already have experience of engaging with the public. Citizens Advice Bureaux, Which?, Community Food and Health (Scotland), the Food and Health Alliance and Poverty Alliance were identified in this regard.

10.9 Another common recommendation (10 mentions) was for the frameworks for consumer engagement already established by local authorities and territorial health boards, to be harnessed and utilised by the new food body. One local authority suggested building in to SLAs the use of citizen's panels and forums for seeking views on food related issues.

10.10 It was suggested (PB) that rather than undertake isolated consumer engagement exercises, partnerships should be forged with local groups to promote joined-up, ongoing work. Two respondents (LA, PB) called for groups such as local food liaison groups and other relevant community groups to be supported and built upon.

10.11 Two respondents (Prof A&U, LA) considered that engagement could be enhanced by placing the Food Safety and Inspection Service on a statutory footing.


Email: Karen McCallum-Smith

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