As rumours circulate that the Food Standards Agency (FSA) could be dismantled, CEO Tim Smith has underlined efficiency gains and cost cutting achievements in its annual report.
Last week UK food headlines were dominated by rumours that the new government, in its quest to reduce public spending and cull quangos, is considered plans to close the FSA and split its functions between the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department for Food, Rural Affairs and the Environment (Defra).
The FSA has refused to comment on the reports, but introducing the 2009/2010 accounts, CEO Tim Smith admitted that the recession has put pressure on the agency to improve efficiency.
Smith said: “Tough economic conditions demand the highest levels of performance and efficiency in return for public money.”
The FSA chief claimed that the agency has responded to the need to deliver more with fewer resources. He said: “Progress has been made in costs with a five per cent reduction in expenditure in real terms, and the net cost of the FSA falling from £155.3m to £152.4m.”
Much of this progress has been down to restructuring efforts such as the integration of the Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) into the FSA’s new operations group, which was completed in April this year. As a result of such changes, the FSA has made 400 people redundant between 2007 and March 2010, bringing the total workforce down to 2,131 people.
In his chief executive’s statement, Smith went on to describe the positive impact of the work done by the FSA over the past 10 years.
He said: “Since being established in April 2000, the Agency has worked flat out with the food industry, consumers and the scientific community to minimise food safety risks, promote healthier eating, and raise public confidence in food.
“As a result, foodborne illness is down by 16 per cent over the decade; lower salt consumption is preventing 6,000 diet related deaths each year (saving £1.5 billion according to an independent economic impact analysis), and both consumers and the UK food industry are benefitting from the high levels of trust and confidence in British food.”
As for public confidence in the FSA, Smith claimed that this remains high at 62 per cent. To read the full annual report and accounts, please click here.