Brand owners see chance to seize baton from FSA

Food and drink marketers should find it easier to promote healthy eating without the interference of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) if it is scrapped, according to industry experts.

Senior marketers suggest that the potential abolition of the FSA could stimulate brands into adapting their marketing to promote healthier lifestyles rather than relying on the government agency.

One senior marketer at a leading soft drinks manufacturer says: “While the FSA’s approach has been commendable, currently brands don’t want to be treading on its toes with their messaging. This would change if the agency ceased to exist.”

Over the past year, the FSA has said it wants to “amplify and get important health messages out to mass audiences”. However, it has drawn criticism for its stance on issues such as traffic light food labelling and proposed “fat taxes”.

According to Verdict Research senior analyst Malcolm Pinkerton: “The industry doesn’t need a regulatory body because the supermarkets and food manufacturers are doing a good job at regulating themselves in terms of food labelling and a traffic light system. There’s no need for the FSA to meddle in this.”

The FSA has also come under fire for pressing for stricter rules on promoting foods high in salt, sugar and fat to children through television.

A senior industry figure says signalled changes to move the FSA’s responsibilities to the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) could spark a change in direction for food and drink advertising, in a similar way that Change4Life has.

“In the same way that the Government feels it has pump-primed Change4Life, the FSA could rely on the commercial sector for the promotion of these issues and make public safety its number one priority. Brands will become the ambassadors of behavioural change and this is no bad thing.”

The agency will be part of a review of “arms-length bodies” taking place in the autumn.

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