Page 1: Introduction
The UK government set up the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in 2000 by Act of Parliament. It is a non-ministerial government department. This means that it reports to the government but it is run by a Board which acts on the public's behalf. This ensures it can act independently to protect consumers. The public can have confidence that the decisions it takes about food safety are in their best interest.
The FSA's role is to:
- provide advice and information to the public and to the government on food safety, nutrition and diet
- protect the public through effective enforcement and monitoring
- support consumer choice through accurate and meaningful labelling of food.
The FSA's vision is 'Safe food and healthy eating for all'. The FSA seeks to achieve this vision by:
- putting the consumer first
- operating in an open and independent way
- carrying out actions that are based on science and the best available evidence.
The work of the FSA is important to everyone in society because we all have an interest in food safety and healthy living. Food from restaurants, supermarkets, and school kitchens all needs to meet certain standards.
The FSA works with a range of stakeholders. Stakeholders are groups and individuals that have an interest in what the FSA does and the decisions it makes.
Different stakeholder groups have different concerns and issues. For example,
- businesses need to be sure that they are meeting food requirements for consumers. The FSA looks at all activities 'from farm to fork' to help them meet requirements at every step of the food process.
- local government and law enforcement agencies need to be aware of what to do when problems occur, for example, shops selling out-of-date food. The FSA provides standards to enable food inspectors or health and safety officials to take remedial action.
- consumers want helpful information about food. The FSA carries out a range of work to make sure food is safe to eat and provides consumers with up-to-date information. This helps them to make healthy choices about what they eat.
This case study focuses on how the FSA uses scientific and market research to provide consumers with reliable up-to-date information, enabling them to make healthy choices about food. It shows how market research helped to develop the 'traffic lights' system of labelling food (also known as signposting). This gives consumers an easy way to understand the breakdown of fats, salts, sugars and carbohydrates in food.