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FSA Board commits to building on pandemic insight to anticipate future challenges in the food system

Horizon scanning was one of the main topics of discussion as the Food Standards Agency (FSA) Board met online this week.

On Wednesday, 26 August 2020, the Board heard how the FSA used horizon scanning to provide insight into the Covid-19 pandemic – and discussed how this forward-planning approach can now be utilised into the future.

Following recommendations by the Science Council’s Working Group 3 report on horizon scanning published in June 2019, the agency employed this capability during Covid-19, providing valuable insights that were shared across government. Notably, the approach was used to inform the FSA’s communications approach, particularly in relation to food businesses and communicating guidance on adapting businesses for delivery. 

Chief Executive Emily Miles highlighted the ambition to move from reacting to issues to anticipating changes that will impact on the food industry. This would enable the FSA to be better placed to make it easier for businesses to ensure food safety and standards are as strong as possible.

Elsewhere on the agenda, the Board were given an update on the FSA’s science activities relating to the Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) programme. Members discussed the positive contribution of the food industry in lowering the use of antibiotics in food and the importance of maintaining continuity of surveillance after 2020 outside of the European Union.

Meanwhile, Professor Patrick Wolfe, Chair of the Science Council’s working group on data usage and digital technology, also attended the meeting, and told members the FSA was in a good position to respond to issues and opportunities arising over the next two to five years in this area. 

He recommended growth in the FSA’s technical leadership and implementation of long-term monitoring of impact for data innovations. The Board welcomed the report, cautioned against the wholesale mandation of opening up data, and stressed the importance of industry and consumer engagement at the right time.

Chair Heather Hancock also presented the Annual Governance Report, which proposed no changes to terms of reference and standing orders for Board, Business Committee, and other committees. Both Chair and Chief Executive Emily Miles reiterated the remit of the FSA, particularly in the context of EU Exit, while the Chair also updated members on progress on appointing new Board members to fill existing vacancies, including her own position.

Finally, board members noted the work undertaken by the Audit and Risk Assurance Committee (ARAC) during the 2019/20 financial year, with the Committee satisfied with the FSA’s current audit assurance process.

The meeting closed with the Chair thanking outgoing board members Mary Quicke and Stuart Reid.

The board meeting is now available to watch in full online.