Food safety is different from public health

Although your leader column on the future of the Food Standards Agency (MW 15 July) was overtaken slightly by events, it did contain some muddled thinking that I feel is worth addressing.

The FSA has focused on a number of areas since it was founded in 2000, but its primary role has always been ensuring food safety. As you said, the FSA has helped to create an environment in which public confidence in the food they eat has grown significantly and it’s in our interests to ensure our regulator is able to maintain these high levels of trust in the safety of the products people buy.

In your piece, you seemed to confuse issues about food safety with the debate about public health. While they are not completely exclusive discussions, food safety is a very different beast to any policy discussions about nutrition and diet.

There is merit in putting issues relating to public health back to the Department of Health – so long as this leads to clearer and more consistent policy making, and unnecessary duplication of effort across Whitehall.

We are confident that Andrew Lansley’s focus on the importance of developing a more coherent approach to public health will help improve the efficacy of Government in this area, while his Responsibility Deal will provide a clearer framework in which industry will be challenged to work in partnership with his department to deliver even more progress.

You also peddle the false line that industry spent £800m lobbying MEPs ahead of the labelling vote – a figure as inaccurate as much of your leader article content.

Julian Hunt, Director of Communications, Food and Drink Federation

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