The U.K. Food Standards Agency (FSA) has announced that as of September 1, 2010, the agency handed over several responsibilities to the departments of Health (DH) and Environmental, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Under the restructuring—which does not currently apply to operations to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—FSA in England will continue to handle the following safety aspects of food labeling: (i) “expert scientific advice on the food safety aspects of date marking”; (ii) “assessment and labeling of ingredients/foods with food safety implications (e.g. allergens, glycols, high caffeine, high glycyrrhizinic acid)”; (iii) “food safety aspects of organic food and of foods controlled by compositional standards”; (iv) “treatments and conditions of use with food safety implications (e.g. quick frozen foods, raw drinking milk and pasteurisation, food contact materials)”; (v) “GM and novel foods (including use of nanotechnology)”; (vi) “animal feed, including Codex Intergovernmental Task Force on Animal Feeding”; (vii) “food safety incidents, including misleading labeling and food fraud with possible food safety implications”; (viii) “EU General Food Law regulation, including traceability of food and feed”; and (ix) “Codex Committees on Food Hygiene, Methods of Analysis and Sampling, Food Additives, [and] Contaminants in Foods.”

Meanwhile, Defra will retain oversight for labeling related to “welfare, marketing standards and eco labeling,” as well as taking over from FSA as general lead on “food labeling legislation and relevant EU negotiations,” such as the EU Food Information proposal, and as lead on the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s General Principles and Coordinating Committee for Europe. Defra will also cover (i) “country of origin labeling”; (ii) “food composition standards and labeling such as fruit juice and fruit nectars, jams and bottled water”; (iii) “technical advice on compositional standards for food without specific legislation, such as soft drinks and cereal products”; (iv) “fish labeling”; (v) “use of marketing terms e.g. natural, fresh, clear labeling, vegan and vegetarian labeling”; (vi) “food authenticity program”; (vii) “Codex Committees for: Food Labelling, Processed Fruits and Vegetables, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Fats and Oils, Fish and Fishery Products, Europe, [and] General Principles.”  

DH will address nutritional labeling policy, which includes (i) “nutrition related aspects of the EU food information regulation”; (ii) “front of pack labeling”; (iii) “food for particular nutritional uses (PARNUTS)”; (iv) “infant formula and follow on formula”; (v) “health and nutrition claims”; (vi) “food supplements”; (vii) “calorie information in catering establishments”; and (viii) “[the] Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses.”  

These changes are reportedly a cost-cutting measure enacted by Secretary of State for Health Andrew Lansley and the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Additional information appears in Issues 356 and 357 of this Update.