Asda has broken ranks with its supermarket rivals and delivered a stinging criticism of Government plans to set up an independent Food Standards Agency.
The plans, developed by nutritionalist Professor Philip James, director of Aberdeen’s Rowett Research Institute, envisage taking responsibility for food safety away from the Ministry for Agriculture, Fisheries & Food and handing it to an independent agency.
All the other major supermarket chains support the initiative.
Asda says the proposals risk creating an unaccountable bureaucracy without adequate lines of communication to ministers. It says there must be direct ministerial responsibility to Parliament and that the creation of an independent agency would not allow this to happen.
Gordon Maddan, Asda’s trading standards manager, says: “We see the need for direct ministerial accountability. The Food Standards Agency has a different model with a chief executive, a committee of ten members and responsibility to a council of ministers, and provides for devolution of food concerns to Scotland and Wales. In that scenario, accountability may become diluted.”
Asda proposes the creation of an all-embracing Consumer Ministry within the Department of Trade & Industry. Food safety, food labelling and compositional issues would be dealt with either by this new ministry or directly by the Secretary of State for Health.
See Cover Story, page 38