What is the Food Standards Agency?

Mary McMahon

The Food Standards Agency is a food safety agency that sets and enforces policies in the United Kingdom. It works to keep the food supply safe and solicits public comment on a variety of topics. The government created this agency in 2000 in response to concerns about food safety from members of the general public. It has offices in several key UK cities to make sure it reaches the population effectively, and it also uses a website to communicate with the public.

The European Union has a ban on importing genetically-modified foods.
The European Union has a ban on importing genetically-modified foods.

Officers at the Food Standards Agency work on topics like research, safety testing, hygiene, and food labeling. In research, the Food Standards Agency studies topics like nutrition, farming techniques, and new methods for hygiene. The agency can apply this information to new safety rulings in the interest of keeping members of the public safe when they consume food, whether at restaurants or from the grocery store.

Safety testing is important for genetically modified organisms.
Safety testing is important for genetically modified organisms.

Safety testing is important for novel foods and genetically modified organisms. Novel foods are products that do not have a long history of use, and thus may have unidentified safety concerns. The Food Standards Agency uses research facilities to test foods before approving them for sale in the UK, and can request changes to formulas as necessary to make foods safer for consumers. It also considers input from members of the public with concerns, as well as analyzes documentation from food manufacturers.

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Food hygiene work involves setting standards for hygiene in facilities where people make and handle food. Local public health agencies are responsible for enforcement of these standards, inspecting food facilities and issuing warnings or shutdown notices as appropriate. Food safety standards are constantly under improvement, and the Food Standards Agency works to keep UK policies consistent with current thoughts on food safety.

Labeling and packaging, including nutritional disclosures, health claims, and origin claims, are also within the purview of the Food Standards Agency. It can evaluate labeling to make sure it falls within the law and also conducts investigations into incorrectly labeled foods. This aspect of consumer protection promotes confidence by assuring food buyers that the agency investigates and corrects false or incorrect information on labels. It also considers topics like country of origin laws in the European Union, such as labels for artisan foods that meet very specific standards.

Members of the public can comment on proposed policy changes as well as express concerns to the agency. It holds public meetings and publishes requests for comment on a regular basis. Part of the work of the agency involves operating as publicly as possible so members of the public can see how and why the organization makes policy decisions.

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