The Food Standards Agency (FSA) is to lose its responsibility for nutrition policy and country of origin labelling but keep its food safety remit, as the Government pares down the quango.
The FSA, which has more than 2,000 staff and controls an annual budget of £135m, will hand over nutrition policy to the Department of Health. Nutrition policy includes making decisions over front-of-pack nutrition labelling and Guideline Daily Amounts.
Meanwhile the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs will take on country of origin labelling and other non-safety food labelling policy in England. Other responsibilities - such as composition policy, which sets out agreed standards for characterising products such as honey, jam, chocolate, or the meat content of sausages - will also transfer to the department.
The move means that about 70 policy jobs will transfer to the Department of Health from the FSA, while 25 leave the quango for Defra. No redundancies are currently planned, although some of the policy posts could be reviewed as part of the Government's spending review later in the year.
The FSA will also retain its responsibility for nutrition and labelling policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Commenting on the decision, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said: "It's absolutely crucial for the Food Standards Agency to continue providing independent, expert advice to people about food safety. But bringing nutrition policy into the Department makes sense. It will enable a clear, consistent public health service to be created, as our Public Health White Paper later this year will set out. I believe - in the-long term - we'll have a clearer and less bureaucratic system for public health. The end result will focus on turning expert advice and support into better health."
Lord Rooker, chairman of the FSA, added: "Food safety and hygiene have always been at the heart of what the agency does. They are our top priorities in protecting the interests of consumers."
A spokesman for the British Hospitality Association (BHA) said: "The new arrangements are as we had been led to expect and we are broadly happy with them, but we will need more information about how the FSA will now be structured and how it intends to proceed. We are also looking forward to working with DEFRA and the Department of Health on nutritonal issues and menu information."
By Neil Gerrard
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