About our scientific committees

The Agency is advised by eight scientific committees (SACs), comprising more than 120 independent experts appointed through open competition. These scientists provide independent advice and challenge that is fundamental to the Agency’s work and reputation.

The work of these independent committees helps make sure that the Agency's advice is always based on robust analysis of the most recent scientific evidence.

Seven of the committees cover specific food and feed related issues such as microbiology, social science and toxicology. The General Advisory Committee on Science has a broader, more strategic role for advising on our science and bringing together the work of the other committees.

Several other scientific committees advise the Agency, if needed.

How the committees work

Most scientific advisory committee holds three to six meetings per year; most are held in London. Committee meetings are usually held in open session to increase the visibility and transparency of the committee's work, and to enable interested parties to hear the committee's discussions. The presumption is that meetings are held in open session. However, reserved business sessions may be held in some circumstances. You can find out when meetings are being held and register to attend via the committees' own websites.

The committees operate to a common set of standards, and the Agency also expects members to adhere to the Universal Ethical Code for Scientists. You can find out more at the link below.

In addition to the work undertaken by all members, the committee chairs may also advise the FSA Chair and Board, and act as spokespeople for the committees if issues become of public interest.

Each committee has at least one lay member whose role is to challenge the committees to consider the needs of non-specialists and to ensure effective communication of the risk assessment advice. These lay members help make sure that committees address our core value of putting the consumer first and are made aware of issues being discussed that are most of interest to the public. They also help ensure committees present their advice in clear and understandable language.

Role of assessors

Meetings of committees (and working groups) may be attended by assessors. The assessors are nominated by, and drawn from, the agencies and government departments that sponsor the committee, receive its advice, or have other relevant policy interests.

Assessors are not members of the committee or of its secretariat, and do not participate in committee business in the manner of members.

The role of an assessor is to keep their parent department or agency informed about the committee's work and act as a conduit for the exchange of information.

Triennial Reviews of Scientific Advisory Committees

The six Scientific Advisory Committees (SACs) for which the FSA is sole or lead sponsor are advisory non-departmental public bodies. This means they are subject to Triennial Review as part of the government’s commitment to ensuring, and improving, the accountability and effectiveness of public bodies.

Triennial Reviews consider whether the functions provided by a public body are still required and, if they are, what it the best model for its provision.

Reports of completed Triennial Reviews by FSA are published below.

In the second cycle of Triennial Reviews, from 2014 to 2017, the FSA will carry out reviews of the following SACs:

  • Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs (ACAF)
  • Advisory Committee on Microbiological Safety of Food (ACMSF)
  • Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP)
  • Committee on Toxicity (COT)
  • General Advisory Committee on Science (GACS)
  • Social Science Research Committee (SSRC)

More in this section

  • Framework for dialogue between the FSA and the SACs

    This framework sets out objectives and boundaries for dialogue between the Agency and its scientific advisory committees (SACs). It aims to ensure that this dialogue is effective, transparent, and respects the different roles and responsibilities of risk assessment and risk management.

  • Good practice guidelines for scientific advisory committees

    The Agency’s scientific advisory committees have drawn up good practice guidelines to assist them in their work. These guidelines are based on the Code of Practice for Scientific Advisory Committees produced by the Government Office for Science.

  • Public appointments to advisory committees

    The Annual Appointments Report includes details of the people appointed to the seven advisory committees for which FSA is responsible. It also includes diversity levels and progress against diversity targets.

  • Scientific committees

    The work of the independent committees and working groups that advise the Food Standards Agency helps ensure that the Agency's advice to consumers is always based on the best and most recent scientific evidence.