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Scotland Going Independent On Food Safety

It’s not really going down like the plot of “Braveheart,” but the coming 2014 on Scottish Independence is already having large ramifications on food safety regulation in the United Kingdom.

The Scottish Government is pulling out of the UK’s Food Standards Agency, opting instead to set up its own independent Scottish food standards body. The new Scottish agency will be responsible for food safety, food standards, nutrition, food labeling, and meat inspection.

The independence move actually stems more from the 2010 decision by the UK Government to move food labeling and standards from FSA to UK’s Department of Health and Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, and not necessarily in spirit of the planned 2014 Independence vote.

When that decision was announced, the Scottish Government asked Professor Jim Scudamore to conduct an independent review of its options including the stand-alone agency. The Scudamore panel took oral and written testimony from 40 stakeholders over several months, it published its report in April, calling for Scotland to go it alone.

“The changes in England removed significant capacity in the FSA’s nutrition and labeling functions for Scotland and needed to be addressed,” said Michael Matheson, Scotland’s health minister.

Matheson said the Scottish Government have accepted the Scudamore recommendations.” A new body will allow a Scottish approach to be taken to tackle poor diet and food-borne diseases and should support our food and drink industry in growing its strong, international reputation for safe, quality food.”

He said the agency will be independent with only a ‘arms-length” relationship with the government.

Rural Affairs Secretary said operational control of meat inspection will be turned over to the new FSA of Scotland “as soon as possible” because it will be more cost-effective with a stronger reputation for quality and hygiene.

Alan McNaughton, president of the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, welcomed the new agency, saying it gives everyone involved “the chance to start again with fresh ambitions, fresh attitudes, and a vision for continued development.”

Meanwhile consumer advocate Marieke Dwarshuis of Consumer Focus Scotland said the new agency would be transparent and consumer focused.

UK’s Jeff Rooker, who chairs the FSA that will be left serving England, Wales, and Ireland, said about 200 of its staff positions are currently located in Scotland. He promised to work closely with the Scottish Government on the transition.

“We will work with the Scottish Government to meeting their objectives while ensuring that consumers’ interests in relation to food continue to be protect,” Rooker said. He also said until required legislative language comes into force, the UK’s FSA will continue to carry out its responsibilities.

As for the Independence campaign now underway in Scotland is the lead up on a vote on this question: “Do you agree that Scotland should become an independent country?”

A “yes’ vote would mean Scotland would have its own passport and military, but would not nullify UK citizenship or pensions. If a majority votes “yes,” it would be more for making the relationship between Scotland and England more like New Zealand is to Australia.

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