Saturday, 16 February 2013

Sorry Joanna but the FSA has done a good job...

...even though it pains me to defend a somewhat nannying quango.

Ms Blythman's contention is that the UK's Food Safety Agency is in the pocket of "Big Food" and therefore not doing its job:

So, whenever revelations about our industrialised, globalised food chain surface, the FSA can be relied upon to pipe up like a parrot with its well-rehearsed script, designed to reassure us that we can have confidence in the food we eat. Boosting trust in the existing food system, irrespective of whether it is merited, by telling us that the latest scare poses no health risk, is the only language the FSA speaks.

But I would contend that the purpose of the FSA is to ensure that the food we eat is safe. And by this we chiefly mean, isn't going to make us ill. And what a great job that Agency has done - in 1998 there were nearly 100,000 cases of food poisoning in the UK (93,932 to be precise) but by 2010 this had fallen to just under 57,000 cases. Despite an increasingly globalised food system, we have improved the safety of the food we eat.

And the food processing industry that Ms Blythman hates is a big part in that improvement - even though the corrupt mislabelling of food is a problem (and more about regulation than authorities seem prepared to accept) and a safety issue, nobody has suggested that the current horsemeat scandal has made anybody ill.

There's no doubt that, if you want to know what's in your food, you should buy all the ingredients and make it yourself. But this doesn't reduce the safety risks - we know, for example, that poor hygeine in the home is a bigger cause of illness than poor hygeine in food businesses. And this is the chief point - the FSA's job isn't to make moral judgements about GM foods, to act as an advocate for organic produce or to close down food processing plants. The Agency's job is to ensure that the food we buy - from the organic biodynamic woo-laden goodies that Ms Blythman likes to the evil products of "Big Food" - isn't going to make us ill.

And the FSA has done just that.


1 comment:

Leg-iron said...

Hygiene in the home isn't regulated but hygiene in the food business is very regulated - by the FSA. The food retail world does not control the FSA. Food retail is terrified of them.

We had a great report from our recent FSA check but then we have a doctor of microbiology cleaning the place (me) and I work to pathogen lab standards. A fail (and it can be as simple as using a perfectly safe but not-on-the-list cleaning chemical) could get the shop closed down.

The idea that the FSA is in the pocket of any food retailer is laughable. They would close down Tesco in the blink of an eye if they thought there was anything even remotely unsafe going on.