The latest Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board meeting of 24 March 2011 concluded that openness and transparency should be key and that as much information as possible should be made public.

The FSA’s commitment to openness is a reflection of its statutory function (under Section 7 (1) (a) of the 1999 Act) of "providing advice and information to the general public (or any section of the public) in respect of matters connected with food safety or other interests of consumers in relation to food"….

To illustrate this openness, the FSA has published the list of meat plants that have been identified as a ‘cause for concern’ for more than 12 months. ‘Cause for concern’ was a process developed to identify the small proportion of slaughterhouses and cutting plants, that need to improve their standards to ensure risks to public health are kept to a minimum.

Also as a result of this latest reaffirmation of the principle of openness the FSA will be reviewing and consulting on the way public information and technical data is presented to ensure it is meaningful for different audiences.

Additionally, a new protocol on publishing information during and about incidents is being drafted as a result of issues arising from the publishing of information about Food Business Operators (FBOs) both during and after incidents. This should be published on 1 May 11.

More information on the discussion around openness at the FSA is available here and here.

This is a positive development, the aim of achieving greater consistency over publishing and disclosure of information will, in turn, it is hoped, also allow greater transparency of the process of assessment of standards and risk.