The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is an independent department of the UK Government which is responsible for monitoring the food safety and hygiene of businesses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The FSA works alongside local authorities to enforce food safety and hygiene standards upon food businesses and ensure that consumers are effectively protected. If a food business demonstrates poor food hygiene practices, the FSA can prosecute the business, including fines, closure of the business and sometimes imprisonment. Therefore, understanding the role of the FSA and its powers is of the utmost importance.
Aims of the FSA
Currently, the FSA have a "Food We Can Trust Strategy 2015-2020", which establishes the purpose and ambitions of the FSA. The themes which are included in the FSA's current strategy include:
- The right for consumers to be protected from unacceptable risks connected with consuming food.
- The right for consumers to make informed choices about their food, whilst knowing the facts associated with the food they are consuming.
- The right for consumers to enjoy the best food future possible, therefore focusing on how certain changes could affect the future of food.
Responsibilities of the FSA
The Food Standards Act 1999 established the Food Standards Agency, along with their functions and powers. The designated powers of the FSA allow it to act as a food safety watchdog over food businesses.
The main responsibilities are the following:
- Ensuring that businesses don't include anything in their food that should not be there.
- Ensuring food businesses do not treat food in a way that could damage the health of those eating it.
- Ensuring food businesses serve or sell food in the nature, substance and quality which the consumer would expect.
- Ensuring food must be labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not misleading.
What does the FSA do?
The FSA provide advice to the UK Health Ministers regarding advances to food safety and food hygiene. The FSA commissions research into the food industry, to ensure that legislation remains as effective and up to date as possible.
The FSA works alongside local authorities to enforce daily food legislation, which includes speaking to food businesses who require help in enforcing their food legislation.
The FSA and local authorities work together to investigate and then prosecute a food business if it is guilty of poor food hygiene practices.
In February 2013, the FSA was involved in investigating the contamination of beef products with horsemeat and pork. This was scandalous as it involved consumers buying and consuming what they thought were beef products, but actually included a different type of meat.
Findus, a frozen food brand, recalled their beef lasagne meals from retailers, as it was discovered that some of the packaged meals contained 100% horsemeat. The FSA reported on the tests conducted by Findus, where they found that 11 of 18 meals tested contained between 60% and 100% horsemeat. The FSA reported that following these findings, all food businesses would now have to test their beef products.
The FSA help to uphold food safety and hygiene standards and therefore the role of the FSA is certainly important in the food industry.