The new organisation will take responsibility for food safety, food standards, nutrition, food labelling and meat inspection in Scotland.
Scottish ministers have agreed to create the new body in Scotland following the partition of the Food Standards Agency’s (FSA's) responsibilities in 2010.
Public health minister Michael Matheson said: “A new body will allow a Scottish approach to be taken to tackle poor diet and foodborne diseases and should support our food and drink industry in growing its strong, international reputation for safe, quality food.”
Matheson said the body would work “at arms-length” from the Scottish government. “The body will encompass nutrition and labelling policy, and meat inspection policy and operational delivery, in addition to food safety and standards. We will establish a new body that is independent, evidence-based, consumer-focused and transparent,” he said.
Creating the new body will require primary legislation. A consultation on options, including the name of the new organisation, is due to be completed before the end of this year.
Marieke Dwarshuis, director at consumer watchdog Consumer Focus Scotland, said consumers would want to know that the highest standards and controls are in place. “We are pleased that this new Scottish body is intended to be transparent and consumer focused and we look forward to seeing the detailed proposals on how it will carry out its vital roles,” he said.
Before 2010, the FSA was responsible for food safety, nutrition and health in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
One of the first acts of the coalition government was to transfer responsibility for labelling to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and nutrition to the Department of Health.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland the FSA retained responsibility for food safety and nutrition.
In Wales labelling and nutrition remains the responsibility of the Welsh Assembly.
When our sister title Food Manufacture asked government chief scientist Dr Andrew Wadge last month if the new arrangement was working, he replied: “What we do now is work closely now with the DoH because of its in-house expertise that was transferred from here.”
While acknowledging that the arrangement had caused frustration, he added: “Certainly, from my perspective we can make it work. And that is what we will do and continue to do.”
To read Food Manufacture’s full interview with Wadge, click here .
Meanwhile, unhealthy living is almost universal in Scotland, with virtually everyone in the country putting themselves at risk, according to a study conducted by Glasgow University.
Its researchers analysed data from 6,574 people who took part in the 2003 Scottish Health Survey. They noted five factors that contributed most to disease in richer countries, including: smoking, drinking, poor diet, physical inactivity and obesity.
The report concluded that 97% of Scots had at least one of the risk factors. About 55% of the population had three or more, while 20% had four or all five risk factors.