A message from the FSA’s new Chair
The FSA’s new Chair, Susan Jebb, discusses her ideas about the agency’s role in helping deliver the government’s vision for a reformed food system.
Most of us want to make changes to our diets that will be healthier for ourselves and for the planet. Many of the changes are already overdue, but there is little doubt we need to take action now.
Food is at the heart of solving the challenges of obesity and climate change and, as the Food Standard Agency’s (FSA) new Chair, I’m ambitious for the FSA to make a difference and to influence the food system for the better.
Tackling obesity and climate change shouldn’t be about telling people what they already know. Instead, we need to change the food system by working with industry so that it is easier for people to achieve healthier and more sustainable diets, and at the same time, support people to make the best choices for their own health and the environment.
The FSA has high levels of public trust and we are well placed to explain the evidence to people so they can understand the facts. Moreover, we already work successfully with the food industry and across government on food matters. I hope we can use these relationships to encourage change in the food system so it’s easier for people to meet their personal goals.
For 20 years the FSA has been driving collaboration and corporate responsibility with the food industry and has a proven track record in delivering successful large-scale change programmes to improve food safety. Initiatives such as the campylobacter reduction programme in 2014, and the Food Hygiene Rating Scheme that celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, are both positive success stories which have brought benefits for consumers.
I believe that food safety isn’t only about food poisoning which may last a few days, but also the long-lasting effects it can have on your health and the heavy burden this places on our health services. Safe food should be safe for the planet too and protect our natural environment. We need a food system that actively does good, rather than just minimising harm.
In my view, the recently published National Food Strategy was spot on in its analysis of the problems facing the food system; the outstanding challenge is identifying and making the changes needed for a healthier and more sustainable future. The FSA stands ready to play its part – using our evidence and analysis to make informed decisions, continuing to act as the industry ‘watchdog’, and bringing consumer interests to bear on future decision-making. This is a key opportunity to transform food policy so that the food system does good for people, the planet and our economy.
But, as the new Chair of FSA, the priorities uppermost in my mind are ensuring food is safe and is what it says it is, while maintaining the trust of consumers and our trading partners in the high standards in our food system. We must never take food safety for granted. Despite our best efforts, foodborne disease costs the economy and society over £9 billion annually. We must continually evolve our systems to work efficiently and proportionately to protect the public and to maintain our position as a trusted regulator.
About the author
Susan Jebb is one of the country’s leading scientists, a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. Her recent research has focused on the treatment of obesity and interventions to encourage healthy and sustainable diets.
Susan has a long-standing interest in the translation of scientific evidence into policy and was the Science Advisor to the Government Office for Science Foresight report on obesity in 2007 and is currently an advisor to the National Food Strategy. She has previously chaired the cross-government expert advisory group on obesity (2007–2011), the Department of Health responsibility deal food network (2011–2015) and public health advisory committees for the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (2013-2018). She was awarded an OBE in 2008 for services to public health.
Susan holds a part-time appointment at the University of Oxford alongside the role as Chair of FSA.