The Board received an annual review from its Chief Scientific Adviser Professor Guy Poppy, and reiterated its support for the drive Prof Poppy had led to increase the consistency, focus and impact of FSA science, and its wider reach and recognition. The department needs to be a scientifically literate regulator: both an intelligent customer for science, sourcing and using the right science across the Agency’s work, as well as being an intelligent provider of what is needed. The board welcomed the visibility and connections that Prof Poppy had achieved on its behalf, across Whitehall departments, the academic community and beyond.
The Board also discussed with Professor Sandy Thomas, Chair of the FSA Science Council, progress on the three work streams being delivered by the Council. Firstly, how the Board can be confident that the FSA has access to the right science capability and assurance and is making the best use of this; secondly the Council’s advice on best practice in establishing and communicating risk and uncertainty, and finally how the Agency should be improving its horizon scanning capability and its understanding of global food system risks and opportunities.
The Board was also given an update on the policy evidence base for the FSA’s raw drinking milk (RDM) programme, including risk assessment, economic analysis and consumer insight. The report highlighted a fivefold increase in the volume of RDM production in the UK between 2012 and 2017. There has also been an increase in outbreaks of human illness associated with RDM in the UK since the beginning of 2015. Board members identified a series of additional analyses or evidence they would like to see before taking a decision on the controls in place, in June this year.
The Chair emphasised that the Board’s decision, in due course, would be taken on the basis of science and sound evidence using the previously agreed framework for assessing risky foods.
The Board contributed to a review of the FSA’s international strategy and noted this was still in the early stages of development. The final strategy will come to the Board for agreement and monitoring. Governance will include using key performance indicators to track against the agreed objectives. The Board emphasised the FSA’s cross-government contribution, in key areas such as exports, and the value of international knowledge sharing. The Chair commented that the FSA’s current approach to wider international work over the past 12 months has had a lot more rigour, focus, discipline and good delivery.
Later, the FSA’s Business Committee agreed the high-level priorities and the budget for the 2018-19 financial year.
The papers discussed are available on our website and a video on demand recording of the meeting will be available on the FSA’s website on Friday 16 March.