EH practitioners are well placed to make a “significant contribution” to FSA’s changed role
While ensuring food safety is still at the heart of its work, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has said in its new five-year strategy that it will also encourage healthier eating and sustainability.
The strategy promotes a food system that consumers can trust, defining this as: food that is safe, is what it says it is, and is healthier and more sustainable.
The FSA said leaving the EU had changed its role and that it had taken on additional responsibilities such as approving new types of foods and setting checks for imported food. The organisation said that now was also the “right time” to contribute to wider government efforts to tackle diet-related disease and climate change, while keeping food affordable.
There is no more funding or powers being given to the FSA to achieve these additional aims but Sam Faulkner, Head of Strategy, argued that working collaboratively could help it make strides in this area.
The FSA has already been working with the Department for Education, for example, to pilot standards for school food. He added that the FSA is also working with Defra and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) on how data can be collected and used across the food system to support health and sustainability.
“We will work with partners to identify where we can add value and help make it easier for people to access a healthier and more sustainable diet.”
Faulkner said: “There is obviously going to be a transitional period while our strategy beds into the organisation. Of course, health and sustainability are issues that will require action across government, and we will build our work in these areas over time.
“We will work with partners to identify where we can add value and help make it easier for people to access a healthier and more sustainable diet, for example in the evidence we gather or the way we regulate.
He added: “There may well be opportunities in the future for the FSA to give support to EHPs who are working on healthy eating initiatives but that will be after we have done more groundwork and identified where we can make a difference.”
Kate Thompson, CIEH Director Wales said: “We welcome the broader remit for the FSA detailed in the strategy which reflects that dietary health and sustainability are growing priorities for governments across the UK and consumers.
“These issues are also hugely important for environmental health practitioners, and there are some great examples of them working collaboratively with other public health professionals to improve dietary health and promote healthy eating at a local level.
“It’s a huge pity that despite EHPs being well placed to promote this agenda through their day-to-day interactions with food businesses and local communities, budgetary pressures have meant that some excellent initiatives to promote dietary health that they have previously been involved in have simply stopped.
“With obesity levels continuing to rise, the sustainability of our food system and climate change in the spotlight, environmental health practitioners are well placed to make a significant contribution.”
Image credit: Shutterstock