Definition of Food:
Food is the daily subsistence which allows man to survive and which is an essential component of his daily diet.
The role of the Food Standard Agency
The Food Standard Agency in the UK regulates food safety standards and other issues in this respect. According to its annual report there have been several appointments over the past three years although these have declined substantially in 2011 from a high of 100 in 2009 to a low of 89 in 2011. These have also seen a substantial percentage of women being employed with 32 per cent in 2009, 31.63 per cent in 2010 and 26.96 per cent in 2011.
Ethnic minorities have also seen a share of 5 per cent, 4.08 per cent and 4.49 percent of appointments in the respective years. Disabled people have also been employed to the tune of 1 per cent in 2009, 2.04 per cent in 2010 and 2 per cent in 2011.
In its own way, the FSA conducts what it deems to be a regular review of its advisory committees which in their own structure are quite small. Thus any changes to the total number of appointments can have a significant effect on its diversity statistics. The vast majority of these appointments are made in accordance with the qualifications of the persons in question and these usually are required to have what is deemed as specialist scientific knowledge. The report states that the recruitment of such persons obviously does not mirror the general population.
There are various ways in which the FSA advertises its vacancies and these include vacancies advertised on the Cabinet Office Public Appointments vacancies website. This enables the opportunity to attract the most applicants from a variety of diverse backgrounds. The report states that appointments are normally made for a period of three years although members may also be re-appointed for a further two terms with the maximum amount spent on the committee being ten years.
Normally, the FSA expert advisory committee meets between three and six times a year. A lot of preparation is required before each meeting and the day of the meeting is usually dedicated solely to this task. There are also a number of secretariats who are constantly providing new information about the FSA and the actual work of the committees. Other opportunities for new members are also assessed and these include the attendance of workshops.
The FSA also has targets to achieve in 2011/2012 where it is expected to make a number of new appointments up to a maximum of 15 and to reappoint 17 persons to its advisory committees in these years. The report states that it will continue to maximize opportunities in order to increase diversity among its committee members and it expects all this to be achieved in a variety of ways which will include mentoring, coaching as well as a total and thorough review and how and where the adverts for the respective vacancies are placed. The report also states that the new members of the advisory committees will continue to receive induction packages and relevant training according to their individual needs. The FSA will also continue to keep its central appointments unit under review.
Challenges that the FSA is facing:
According to the inquiry on independent health practices chaired by Acheson, it appears that a lot still needs to be done for the health system to be perfected and to be brought up to scratch. The Food Standard Agency does its best through the work of its seven subcommittees which concentrate on specific terms including a committee on science, toxic levels carcinogens, animal feeding stuffs, veterinary services and suchlike.
According to the Independent Inquiry into Health Report the board of inquiry concluded that as part of the health impact assessment, all the policies which come out of the report and which have a direct or indirect effect on the country’s health system should be suitable assessed. Policies should thus be drawn up and implemented and evaluated accordingly in accordance with a structured plan on health. There needs to be a holistic proposal to ensure that a systematic assessment of policy on the inequality of health is carried out so that the government will be able to take the necessary steps to ensure that everything happens to reduce inequality. In this sense, the Food Standards Agency has a very important role to play. The report also recommends that a small but effective unit is set up to administer a pan-Government view and which would encourage further steps to be taken for the eventual implementation of policies and better co-ordination in government departments. This would also serve to further encourage implementation of policies which would strengthen co-ordination at both the central as well as the local level.
The report also mentions the establishing of proper mechanisms which can monitor inequalities in the health system as well as evaluating the proper effectiveness of measures which need to be taken to effectively reduce these inequalities. The report is scathing about the gross inequalities in the health system where poverty is actually centred more in the elderly and in children who suffer disproportionately as far as healthcare is concerned. Thus the effects of future policies require close and careful monitoring at mostly regular intervals. Interestingly the report points out the inconsistencies which occur even at death registrations where the married woman is still classified according to the social role of her husband. Other concerns pointed out by the report include a greater need for consistency regarding census statistics especially after registration and other similar sources.
The report also deals with the inequalities in the UK health system which is still a source of major concern although the life expectation and health standards have improved considerably since the 1980’s. and although average growth increased by 40 per cent since the 1980’s, the growth for the richest tenth of the population increased by a lot more, actually by up to 70 per cent. When one compares this with the poorest tenth of the population, growth increased by only 10 per cent in this sector so one can see the considerable difference that there is between the top and the bottom segment of the population. The report actually states that the differentials in income levels have not been so large since the Second World War and that income inequality is actually greater than that in developing countries. The inquiry recommends sound and holistic policies to address this considerable imbalance in income inequality and life chances.
The Food Standards Agency is an important organization which works for the betterment of health standards in the UK. Although its work is not always fully recognized and given its due, through its seven subcommittees it achieves considerable clout and momentum in this goal. As science continues to develop so does the health question which is consistently important to everyone. The report by Acheson also touches on various aspects which are continually important and which need to be addressed with some urgency before any concrete action is taken and the health situation in Britain improves.
Food is a crucial component of any person’s life so it is important that the FSA continues its sterling work in this regard. One has to continue assessing the invaluable work that the FSA does in this regard and this report sheds new light on all the aspects of the FSA’s work in its various guises and aspects.
All this has to be seen in the context of the proper provision of a holistic health service which can be difficult sometimes. The FSA is certainly fully equipped with all the provisions that one can expect although the administration of such an institution definitely remains an issue in the wider context of a holistic health service. Problems of this nature need to be addressed without delay if the health service is to continue to function at normal levels and this is obviously an important case in point when analyzing any institution such as the FSA.
Acheson D (1998) Independent Inquiry into Inequalities in Health Report: Online Available at: www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/doh/ih/ih.htm (accessed on the 1st December 2011)
Naidoo J and Wills J (2000) Health Promotion Foundations for Practice 2nd Ed London Harcourt Limited
Wadge A (2009/2010) Food Standard Agency Annual Report of the Chief Scientist 2009/10 http://www.food.gov.uk/aboutus/how_we_work/annualpublicplan#h Accessed 1st December 2011
Whitehead M (1992) The Health Divide in Townsend et al (1992) pp219-437