Industry expects 'strong science' from FSA chief

By Michelle Knott

- Last updated on GMT

Catherine Brown's strong science background will be a key asset in her new role as chief executive of the Food Standards Agency (FSA), according to industry sources.

"An independent and trusted FSA, taking proportionate decisions based on science and evidence, is absolutely critical for the success of the UK food and drink manufacturing industry,"​ said Barbara Gallani, director of food safety and science at the Food and Drink Federation. "We are looking forward to working with Catherine Brown and believe that her scientific capability and expertise in research, surveillance and inspections are a great asset for the FSA."

Brown joins the agency from the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), which gives her a great start in understanding the meat sector. However, her background will leave her with a steep learning curve to climb when dealing with other sections of the food industry, cautions Kaarin Goodburn, secretary general of the Chilled Food Association.

"I think it'll be very interesting for her, especially now the Meat Hygiene Service has been brought under the umbrella of the FSA. But there's a lot more to food than meat,"​ said Goodburn. "I'm looking forward to familiarising her with all the non-meat aspects of chilled food."

Outgoing FSA chief, Tim Smith, came from a broad food industry background, but that didn't prevent the FSA from clashing with business leaders during his time with the agency.

For instance, proposals to pass on the cost of veterinary inspections at primary meat processing plants brought it into direct conflict with abattoirs and the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA). The BMPA argued that the FSA operated its inspection regime as an inefficient and expensive monopoly.

The BMPA told Food Manufacture that it hoped to develop a cooperative relationship with the FSA under Brown's leadership. "The BMPA looks forward to working with Catherine Brown when she takes up the role.

"There are a number of very important issues, both here and in Brussels, and it's important for us to cooperate in a positive way with the Agency to meet the goals of both consumers and the industry,"​ said BPMA director Stephen Rossides.

Brown initially takes on the £140,000 a year job at the FSA for three years, with an option to reappoint after that.

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