Chief Executive and Directors

Catherine Brown
Information about the Food Standards Agency's Chief Executive and directors.

Catherine Brown, Chief Executive

Catherine Brown took up post as Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency on 16 October 2012.

Catherine was previously Chief Executive of the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA), which is an executive Agency of Defra. She joined Animal Health, one of the AHVLA’s predecessor bodies in 2007 as Chief Operating Officer, before becoming Chief Executive and leading the Agency into the newly merged AHVLA.

Before joining the civil service in 2007, Catherine had started her career with Unilever, where she worked in the UK and abroad for five years and qualified as a management accountant. She then worked in the NHS in East London, helping to set up Newham Community Health Services NHS Trust before becoming its Finance Director and Deputy Chief Executive. From there Catherine joined BUPA, where she worked for ten years. As Managing Director of BUPA Wellness, and as Director of Change for BUPA’s health insurance business, her roles included running hospitals.

In the past, Catherine has also been a non executive Board member or Chair of various charities.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy

Steve Wearne was appointed Director of Food Safety in July 2013, the role becoming Director of Policy two months later. Previous to this he was Director of FSA Wales.

Steve is a scientist by training, with a degree in biochemistry and a spell of postgraduate research in molecular biology. Steve joined the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1990 and held a range of posts in food science and food policy development, before transferring to the Agency when it was launched in 2000. His first post in the Agency was head of the Private Office and Private Secretary to the first Chair of the FSA, Sir John Krebs (now Lord Krebs).

Jason Feeney, Chief Operating Officer

Jason joined the then DHSS as an Admin Officer in 1981. He spent his early years in the department working in local offices in Leeds and Bradford in a range of frontline posts. In the 90’s he worked in Finance and in the Security Branch of the Benefit Agency managing their £350m change programme. He also enjoyed a two-year secondment to the NHS Executive working on GP remuneration and primary care funding.

In 2002 he was promoted to the Senior Civil Service and spent two years as Head of Future Pensions. He then led the Central Design Authority before being promoted to be the Business Design Director for The Pension Service in 2005. Following the merger of The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service he was appointed Strategy Director for the new agency in May 2008 introducing a number of major service transformations. In December 2010, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer and Deputy CEO for the agency. Following departmental restructuring he was appointed DWP Pensions Director in October 2011. In November 2012, he was appointed DWP Benefits Director with responsibility for 22,000 staff delivering all working age benefits worth about.£30bn a year to over 10m customers. He was made a CBE in the 2011 New Year Honours List.

He was appointed Chief Operating Officer of the Food Standards Agency in January 2015.

Married to Wendy with two children Lucy and Josh. In his spare time he enjoys fell running for Bingley Harriers, mountaineering and cycling.

Rod Ainsworth, Director of Regulatory and Legal Strategy

Rod Ainsworth joined the Agency on 6 April 2010 as Director of Legal Services. Prior to this Rod was Group Legal Director for the Affinity Sutton Group, a position he had held since 2006.

Rod has practised as a solicitor since 1981 and has worked for the London Boroughs of Harrow and Brent. In 1986, Rod became a partner at a London law firm specialising in planning, development and public sector work. In 1995, he joined the Audit Commission as its solicitor where he was involved in the Westminster 'homes for votes' case and creating the Audit Commission Inspectorate. In 2004, Rod became Legal Director and Company Secretary for William Sutton.

Julie Pierce, Director of Openness, Data and Digital

Julie joined the FSA in September 2015. She has previously been the Chief Information Officer for Defra and Director of Corporate Services for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (the predecessor organisation to the Animal and Plant Health Agency). In these roles she has driven new digital solutions to business problems, restructured and developed the organisation, and launched a new open data initiative.

Julie has spent a number of years consulting and leading IT enabled change programmes for both central government and the private sector. She spent over 10 years working for PricewaterhouseCoopers, culminating in her partnership in 2002. Her projects ranged from financial services to aircraft maintenance, and from Warsaw to Malta. However, she started her professional life as an oceanographer with Hunting Surveys working in oil exploration and then joined Logica to exploit satellite imagery in anti-submarine warfare for the UK Admiralty.

She has remained interested in the application of science and new technology throughout her career.

Chris Hitchen, Director of Finance and Performance

Chris Hitchen joined the Agency in January 2010. Prior to this he worked as a Head of Finance at Santander.

Chris graduated in Accounting and Finance in 1992 and gained his Chartered Management Accounting qualification (ACMA) whilst working for Yorkshire Water in 1996. He then spent two years in a Finance role with MD Foods plc (now Arla Foods UK). Joining GE Capital in 1998, he worked in a range of finance roles, latterly as the Head of Finance Auto UK, and was part of the management team that led the sale of the business to Santander in 2009.

Maria Jennings, Director of Northern Ireland and Organisational Development

Maria Jennings was appointed Director of the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland in September 2013.

Since joining the team at the FSA in NI in 2001, Maria has held various positions in the Agency and has been responsible for developing legislation and policy in relation to food safety, food standards, imported food control and food fraud, as well as nutrition and dietary health.

She obtained an Honours Degree in Environmental Health from the University of Ulster in 1990 and has more than twenty years’ experience working in the NI public sector. This includes work in a number of district councils enforcing food hygiene and standards legislation in a range of retail, catering and manufacturing premises. She completed a Masters Degree in Environmental Health in 1998.

Maria is a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner and a member of the Food Safety Promotion Board’s Advisory Committee.

Nina Purcell, Director of Wales and Local Delivery

Nina Purcell took up post as Director of the Food Standards Agency in Wales on 3 February 2014.

Nina was previously the Chief Operating Officer of the Animal Health & Veterinary Laboratories Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She joined Animal Health in 2008 as Head of Centralised Services, which she developed over the following two years, before becoming the Director of Change and Director of England.

Nina became Chief Operating officer on the newly merged Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in 2011, where she oversaw the restructure of the operational delivery and developed a new animal disease outbreak management model for Britain.

Prof. Guy Poppy, Chief Scientific Adviser

Professor Guy Poppy took up his post as Chief Scientific Adviser at the Food Standards Agency in August 2014.

His previous career highlights include:

  • Professor of Ecology at the University of Southampton
  • Director of Multidisciplinary Research at the University of Southampton
  • member of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) panel assessing the quality of agriculture, food and veterinary science in the UK