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.



11.1 It is intended that that the new food body will be established at arms length from the Scottish Government. The independence of the body is considered to be vital to ensure that consumers trust and follow the advice the body gives, particularly during outbreaks of food-borne diseases.

11.2 It is proposed that the new food body's governance structure underpins its independence with the body being set up as a non-Ministerial department, part of the Scottish Administration rather than the Scottish Government, and accountable to the Scottish Parliament rather than Scottish Ministers.

11.3 Safeguards will also be built into the legislation to help build confidence and trust in the new body.

11.4 The consultation asked:

Question 15: Do you agree with the suggested approach to ensuring the new food body's independence from Government and food industry? Do you have any further suggestions for how the new food body could best establish and maintain its position as an arms length part of Government? Please give reasons.

11.5 Ninety respondents (71%) of the 126 respondents addressed this question. There was widespread agreement with the proposal that the new food body retain independence from the Government and the food industry (although it was felt that it could not be considered completely independent from Government whilst being funded by the public purse (IRB) and if Board positions need to be approved by Ministers (IRB)).

11.6 Overall, 46 respondents gave explicit support to the approach suggested in the consultation paper to ensuring the new food body's independence from Government and the food industry. It was considered that being seen to be independent was important for:

  • boosting consumer confidence and trust (17 mentions)
  • delivery of the Scottish Government's aim to protect health (13 mentions)
  • the public interest (PB)
  • credibility of the new food body (Cons)
  • prevention of conflicts of interest (Prof A&U)
  • preventing accusations of political bias and interference from food industries (Acad).

11.7 The proposed governance structure was particularly welcomed by six respondents from a range of sectors. The proposed safeguards were praised in general by a further two respondents (LA, Ind). Five respondents from five different sectors highlighted their support for the proposal that the new body is given the ability to publish its advice to Ministers, with some emphasising what they perceived to be the importance of exercising this ability.

Additional suggestions

11.8 The most common additional suggestion was that the new food body operates with complete transparency, being open about decision-making and the rationale behind this (8 mentions).

11.9 Five respondents (four of them public bodies) called for the new body to have autonomy to act on scientific evidence independently.

11.10 Two third sector respondents suggested that independence could be enhanced by stipulating that the Chief Executive and board members do not have a past history of involvement in the food industry or have conflicting interests.

11.11 The view of three respondents (Ind, Ind, Third) was that the new body should be free from industry funding for its research function and should not be involved in any promotion of the food and drinks industry.

11.12 NHS National Services Scotland suggested that it may be beneficial to incorporate the functions of the new food body within its own organisation on account of its provision of a range of relevant services, many of which currently interact with the FSA, its strong governance, and its established services at arms length from government.


11.13 One issue on which there were mixed views was the extent to which the new food body should remain independent from the food industry and how this is interpreted. Whilst it was acknowledged that the new body should retain independence of decision-making, 10 respondents from a range of sectors emphasised that the involvement of industry in the development of policy and enforcement regimes was healthy and beneficial. One remarked:

"...agrees with the approach being taken to ensure the new food body is independent from Government and food industry. However, maintaining and improving upon existing links with Government and the food industry should be continued; these deliver a means of informing and being informed, without compromising the ultimate independence of the new food body" (NFU Scotland).

11.14 One respondent (Ind) suggested that being open and transparent about this relationship with industry will reap significant benefits.

11.15 The other substantive concern raised (PB, PB) was that not enough emphasis had been given to the requirement for the new food body to be accountable for its actions. One respondent commented:

"Members have expressed concern about the expected wide remit and responsibilities of the new food body, and have suggested that the organisation's proposed remit would cross various ministerial portfolios. This would have a significant impact on accountability and members would like to see the remit adjusted to make accountability more clear" (Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce).


Email: Karen McCallum-Smith

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