United Kindom denies it will abolish food watchdog
July 12, 2010, 9:02 p.m. | World
— by Reuters
LONDON, July 12 (Reuters) - Health Secretary Andrew Lansley denied on Monday he was planning to abolish Britain's food watchdog but wanted to see some of its duties reassigned.
Lansley has criticised the agency's promotion of traffic-light labelling on convenience food to tackle rising levels of obesity, saying its approach was counter-productive.
The opposition Labour party says he is caving in to pressure from the food industry that opposes the red-amber-green labels showing levels of salt, sugar and fats in packaged food.
A government source told Reuters on Sunday the Food Standards Agency (FSA) would be abolished, with its functions split between Lansley's health department and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Lansley said health officials had made no decisions about government agencies although a review was in progress.
"Before the election I made perfectly clear that in my view the diet and nutrition responsibilities of the Food Standards Agency should form part of a more integrated public health service," Lansley told reporters.
"But I see no reason to suppose that of itself requires any organisational change in the Food Standards Agency more generally."
Lansley was appointed health secretary after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power in May.
The FSA was set up by the Labour government in 2000 in the aftermath of the BSE crisis that rocked Britain's beef industry and damaged public confidence in food safety.
In a separate statement the Department of Health said: "The government recognises the important role of the Food Standards Agency and there will continue to be a robust regulatory function delivered through the FSA.
"But as part of our wider drive to increase the accountability of public bodies and reduce their number and cost we will also consider where some of the other functions of the FSA should best sit to ensure they are delivered most effectively." (Reporting by Tim Castle; Editing by David Cowell).