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.



3.1 The FSA was established in 2000 as a UK-wide non-Ministerial Government Department with a wide remit. It has statutory responsibility for protecting public health from risks that may arise in connection with the consumption of food, and otherwise to protect the interests of consumers in all matters connected with food.

3.2 Scottish Ministers are open to innovative ideas the will increase the efficiency or effectiveness of the new food body. These could involve an extension of the scope of the body beyond that currently covered by the FSAS. The intention to bring forward primary legislation to create the new food body in Scotland means that this is the right time to consider such opportunities.

3.3 It has been suggested that the new food body could widen its scope to encompass public health generally, for example by introducing more health-based schemes to tackle problems like alcohol or obesity, tracking and measuring food poverty, or enhancing consumer information such as advising on health claims in food advertisements. Other suggestions are that its scope could include considerations of environment, provenance, sustainability or food security.

3.4 The consultation asked:

Question 1: Should the scope of the new food body extend beyond the current scope of the FSA in Scotland (FSAS)? If yes, what specific extensions of scope would you suggest, and why?

3.5 One hundred and five (83%) of the 126 respondents provided a response to question 1 as follows:

Table 2: Views on whether the scope of the new food body should extend beyond that of the current scope of the FSA in Scotland

No. of respondents

% of respondents

Yes extend scope



No do not extend scope



Not yet - possibly in future



Commentary only






NB Percentages may not add to 100% exactly due to rounding

3.6 Of those who provided a view, 63% considered that the scope of the new food body should extend beyond the current scope of the FSAS. Twenty nine per cent of those providing a view were not in favour of extending the current scope, at least not until the new food body has become established. In amongst these were respondents who did not perceive there to be a need for a new food body.

3.7 All of the local authorities and consumer bodies who provided a view advocated extending the scope immediately. Other respondent sectors were divided in opinion.

Views in favour of extending the current scope

3.8 A common view was that the new food body should embrace all aspects of food "from farm to fork". One respondent particularly welcomed this prospect:

"The present food safety and food standards systems were established as a two tier structure, involving the FSA and the local authorities, because it was considered that the scope was too wide for one organisation........the establishment of the new Scottish food body fundamentally changes the logistical arguments on this. It opens up the prospect for a single, fully integrated food body responsible for policy, regulation and enforcement operating throughout Scotland" (Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation).

3.9 Other respondents recommended extending scope in specific areas, with the new food body taking the lead in some of these, and working in partnership in others.

3.10 Reasons given in support of extending the current scope of the FSA were:

  • To meet Ministers' commitment to improving public health through the provision of safe food and improved/healthy diets.
  • Responsibility for public health issues are currently split and shared across many different bodies.
  • To provide a more consistent approach to planning and delivery.
  • To improve strategic leadership.
  • To address what is perceived to be the current problems with limitations of FSA scope in some areas such as the delivery of official controls relating to feed and feeding stuffs.
  • As the wider issues such as diet which could be encompassed are very high priority topics.
  • Issues of health inequalities and overall health improvement are all connected so should come under one umbrella.

Views on underlying premises for extending scope

3.11 Some supporters of extending the current scope qualified their view, emphasising that any extension should not compromise the new food body's core functions (6 mentions) or duplicate work undertaken by other bodies (3 mentions). For example:

"...it is essential to ensure that it (new food body) does not duplicate the function of other bodies and that its work is complimentary and timely. For example, NHS Health Scotland has a function relating to the introduction, development, implementation and evaluation of schemes tackling alcohol and obesity. Perhaps there is a need to be explicit about what is required, identify the most appropriate lead agency for each of these functions and create a mechanism for them to work together ensuring a holistic approach that engages with the relevant key stakeholders to advise and support the national agenda" (British Dietetic Association).

3.12 Four respondents representing different sectors recommended that plans for extending the scope of the new food body need to be supported by appropriate allocation of resources, including those required for staff training. Two industry representative bodies suggested that resources could be saved by adopting a risk-based approach to inspections, for example, reducing the level of inspections currently being carried out on fresh produce companies who are rigorously implementing internationally accredited schemes, with the resources saved being re-directed to the extended remit; or focusing inspections on critical control points such as feed mills and ports.

3.13 A recurring theme, particularly amongst local authorities, was that the scope of the new food body should be extended if this will provide for improved strategic leadership and better co-ordination of multi-agency service delivery. Two respondents (IRB, Prof A&U) recommended that decisions on where to extend scope should be based on the criteria of whether this will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of service delivery. One public body, which provided commentary only, suggested that it would be a major undertaking to review scope, analyse gaps and propose cost-effective change options.

Suggestions for broad areas for scope extension

3.14 Many respondents recommended broad areas for extension of scope beyond that currently covered by the FSAS. The most frequent suggestion (17 mentions) was to extend the scope of the new food body to cover food poverty. One respondent commented:

"There has been a strong community response to helping those in food poverty, but a lack of a co-ordinated response from national government. We believe that there is an opportunity for the new food body to lead on a national response to the growing problem, and thereby help to address one of the biggest public health problems facing the country" (Citizen's Advice Scotland).

3.15 Five local authority respondents highlighted the importance of the new food body working with others to track, measure and initiate programmes and projects. Two respondents (Cons, Third) envisaged the new food body providing a knowledge and information hub for local networks, with a focus on food access and affordability.

3.16 The other broad areas of extended scope recommended by respondents were:

  • provenance (16 mentions, 13 of which were local authorities)
  • food security (15 mentions, including 11 local authorities many of whom suggested that the new food body should establish links with emergency and contingency planning organisations)
  • alcohol (15 mentions, 11 being local authorities, although many considered that the lead should remain with health professionals who are expert in this field)
  • tackling obesity (14 mentions from a range of sectors)
  • sustainability and environment considerations (14 mentions from a range of sectors with some advocating close partnership working with the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA))
  • education (13 mentions from a range of sectors who recommended extending scope into school education programmes; promoting consumer awareness to help them make more informed food choices; and advising on food intolerance/allergies)
  • influencing food industry and food providers in public places over the quality of food and portion sizes (9 mentions, 8 of which were local authorities)
  • diet and nutrition (8 mentions from a range of sectors; one respondent commented:
    "Currently there are a number of national bodies involved in improving diet and as a consequence it is not always clear who is responsible for what, giving rise to confusion and the potential for duplication. The creation of the new food body would provide an ideal opportunity to clarity the role and remit of the new organisation and that of its key partners" (NHS Ayrshire and Arran))
  • food labelling (8 mentions from a range of sectors)
  • public health in general (7 mentions from a range of sectors, with an emphasis from some on health inequality and vulnerable groups)
  • general food safety (5 mentions from a range of sectors).

Suggestions for specific areas for scope extension

3.17 Many respondents made suggestions for more specific areas which could be encompassed by the scope of the new food body:

  • bringing together animal health and welfare (7 mentions)
  • greater role in research including advising the Scottish Government on evidence-based practice and policy (6 mentions)
  • advising on health claims in food advertisements (5 mentions)
  • export certificates (3 mentions)
  • greater enforcement powers (3 mentions)
  • dairy and egg hygiene (2 mentions)
  • investigating perceived over-provision of some types of food establishment in particular localities (1 mention)
  • water quality (1 mention)
  • establishing regular routes for communication with the fresh produce industry (1 mention)
  • pesticides and veterinary medicines (1 mention)
  • genetically modified food (1 mention)
  • strategy for procurement of food supplements over the internet (1 mention).

Views against extending the current scope

3.18 Five respondents recommended waiting until the new food body has been established before considering extensions to its scope, which could then be approached on an incremental basis.

3.19 Specific arguments provided against extending the scope of the new food body beyond that of the current FSAS included:

  • Many aspects of public health are already being addressed by professional experts and the new food body should take a supportive rather than lead role (6 mentions).
  • Extending scope will dilute the core mission of the new food body which in turn will lead to the erosion of public confidence in its representation of their interests (4 mentions).
  • It will be costly to re-organise functions (3 mentions).
  • Regulatory roles and more wide-ranging policy roles are quite different and require different bodies to undertake them (2 mentions).
  • The practicalities of establishing the governance of the new food body and running its operations will be challenging enough without adding to its scope (1 mention).
  • Some broader issues, for example, sustainability and food security are complex and not suited to the remit of the new food body (1 mention).
  • Extending into areas such as environment could lead to confusing and conflicting decision-making of no benefit to protecting the health of consumers (1 mention).

3.20 A few respondents were very precise about areas which they felt the new food body should definitely not take on. Those highlighted were:

  • sustainability (5 mentions)
  • food security (4 mentions)
  • public health (3 mentions)
  • environment (3 mentions)
  • provenance (2 mentions)
  • water regulation (1 mention)
  • obesity policy (1 mention)
  • food poverty (1 mention)
  • alcohol (1 mention).


Email: Karen McCallum-Smith

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