Shoppers to pay the price in plans for powerful food-standards agency

Food prices seem set to rise to fund a new agency to be established under government plans to clean up the food industry. Food producers will have to fund some of the agency's costs, with a bill of up to pounds 200m. Our Legal Affairs Correspondent has the details.

Ministers plan to charge manufacturers for food licences to help pay for the Food Standards Agency and and the implementation of tougher regulations, according to the White Paper establishing the body, a copy of which has been seen by The Independent.

The bill to the food industry could be pounds 200m, which will raise fears that prices could have to rise. It will also raise concern that the industry will expect trade-offs for funding the scheme. The leaked White Paper, due to be published in November but delayed to next month, also proposes a new advisory committee on animal feed. It is intended to meet concern over the use of genetically altered feed such as maize given to animals and its affects on human health.

The document, marked "final draft", contains wide powers for the agency, including a key role in identifying and recommending balanced and nutritious diets for the general public. Overall, the proposals will create one of the most powerful food watchdogs in Europe. The White Paper is thought to have been delayed after intervention by the Minister without Portfolio, Peter Mandelson, apparently echoing fears by the food industry that emphasis on nutrition would deflect the agency from its other tasks.

The "final draft" says the agency, to be created by 1999, should play a "key role" in developing nutrition policy. In particular, it should help provide the definition of a "healthy diet", and propose laws on nutritional aspects of food, including "labelling and claims, dietary supplements sold as food, fortified foods and functional foods". Critics are watching to see if the proposals are watered down. The Health Department has lobbied hard to keep control over nutrition policy.

But it is clear the food industry will be dismayed by the plan to charge them for food licences to fund many of the White Paper's objectives. In a key passage, the document says " ... the Government believes the food industry should bear the bulk of the costs of improving food safety and standards. The food industry as a whole will benefit from the improved public confidence in food safety and standards that the FSA is likely to bring". The best way of achieving this is a "comprehensive system of licensing with charges", it says.

The White Paper makes big claims for the FSA, which will be based in Whitehall and divided into a commission and an executive arm called the agency, modelled on proposals by Professor Philip James in his 8 May report. In his draft preface, the Prime Minister says the plans will "transform" the way food- standard issues are handled, and promises to do away with the "old climate of secrecy and suspicion".

A key part of the paper allows the agency, which will be responsible to the Department of Health, to publish not just its decisions but evidence on why they are made. It will operate under "guiding principles" including protecting public health in food and the need for unbiased assessments.

A controversial guideline is the requirement that the agency's actions on food health are "proportionate" to the risk and take into account the likely cost to industry and consumers. The Consumers Association believes such "political" judgements should be left just to ministers.

The crucial part of the proposals is the separation of food production issues, which will be retained by the Ministry of Agriculture (MAFF), and food consumer protection, which will pass to the agency. The two were seen as conflicting interests, a factor exposed in recent food crises such as the salmonella eggs scare and BSE.

The agency, whose annual expenditure will be more than pounds 100m, will take over the role of advising ministers on policy and the need for new laws in areas such as food safety, food standards and public information and education on food-related matters.

A Health Department source said there have been battles in MAFF over which powers it will retain. The agency will be given the power to intervene legally - under existing or new powers in the 1990 Food Safety Act - in farming practices where these affect food safety. This will ensure it can operate across the whole food chain, from "plough to plate", says the White Paper.

Critics will doubt whether the agency will be given the resources and have the motivation to intervene effectively in what will remain MAFF's main area of responsibility. The agency, which will have the power and funds to commission research, will also have a "major strategic role" in developing a national strategy on the control of animal pathogens - which can cause disease in humans - in the food chain.

The Consumers Association said it broadly backed plans for the FSA, but was concerned about industry funding it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Actor, model and now record breaker: Jiff the Pomeranian
Video
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
businessHow bosses are inventing unusual ways of making us work harder
News
REX/Eye Candy
science
News
i100
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Life and Style
Google Doodle celebrates the 200th birthday of Irish writer Sheridan Le Fanu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
News
i100
News
In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Jim Carrey and Kate Winslett medically erase each other from their memories
scienceTechnique successfully used to ‘reverse’ bad memories in rodents could be used on trauma victims
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Pixie Lott will take part in Strictly Come Dancing 2014, the BBC has confirmed
tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?