The United Kingdom’s independent Food Standards Agency failed to reduce the incidence of Campylobacter in chickens by 50 percent, did not get the consumers to cut their salt in take by as much as it wanted, but saw the agency grow by its take-over of the Meat Hygiene Service.

These are among the many disclosures found in the Food Standards Agency’s Annual Report, released July 16.   It comes just a few days after it was learned that the UK’s coalition government is considering ending the ten-year-old agency’s independence by merging its functions into other departments.

The staff and functions of the Meat Hygiene Service were brought into Food Standards Agency last April 1, bringing its total number of employees to 2,100.  About 1,150 are meat inspectors located in abattoirs and meat cutting plants.

The Food Standards Agency is now in charge of:

-enforcement of hygiene rules in licensed fresh meat premises;

-provision of meat inspection and controls on health marking in licensed red meat, poultry meat, and wild game meat premises;

-enforcement of hygiene controls in meat products, minced meat and meat preparation plants that are co-located with licensed slaughterhouses;

-and enforcement, in licensed fresh meat premises, of controls over specified risk material (SRM) and other animal by-products, and controls prohibiting the sale of meat from cattle over 30 months of age.

In the annual report, the agency says it will move forward with a Campylobacter reduction strategy for 2010-2015, but it will not meet the 50 percent reduction target it set for itself for December 2010.

It also acknowledged that getting people to cut their salt intake is easier said than done.  “During the year it became clear that, although the program of actions to drive salt and saturated fat reduction remains on track, it could not achieve the necessary behavior change required to meet these stretching targets on salt and saturated fats by 2010.”

The Food Standards Agency sought to reduce the salt intake of UK adults to 6 grams per day, down from the current 9.5 grams per day.  It set the goal to be in line with the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

While the agency’s status as a non-Ministerial government department has come into question in part for its relationship with the food industry, the agency claims to have cut the regulatory burden by 25 percent since 2005.

Chief Executive Tim J. Smith said the past year has been a difficult one for the agency. The annual report outlines the Food Standards Agency’s goals as making sure that:

-Food produced or sold in the UK is safe to eat

-Imported food is safe to eat

-Consumers understand about safe food and healthy eating, and have the information they need to make informed choices; and

-Regulation is effective, risk-based and proportionate, is clear about the responsibilities of food business operators, and protects consumers and their interests from fraud and other risks.