Covid, post-EU checks and 'high-profile food incidents' – Emily Miles on how the FSA handled a ‘tough' 2021

2020 may have been a year like no other, but 2021 was a chip off the old block and relentless from day one. The Food Standards chief exec tells us about 12 more months of dealing with Covid as well as new challenges
Food Standards Agency chief Emily Miles

By Civil Service World

29 Dec 2021

 

What was your highlight of 2021?

Seeing staff pull together to respond to the continuing challenges of the pandemic, supporting each other through some very tough times to ensure the agency continues to keep consumers safe. 

Not only did they manage the impact of Covid-19 but they also continued to tackle some very high-profile food incidents and deliver a new allergen labelling law that will boost protection for the two million people who live with food allergies in this country.

How did you tackle the biggest challenges facing your organisation in 2021?

It’s been a big year! On 1 January, the Food Standards Agency took on new responsibilities for authorising food products and checking food imports, now that the UK has left the EU. We’ve done extra work to issue export health certificates and review shellfish bed classifications. 

We’ve had fewer vets available to do inspections, so there have been operational pressures, though we’ve kept service to abattoirs on track. We set out a recovery roadmap for local authorities who had fallen behind on food inspections because of their important work on Covid. 

And we’ve carried on with all our work on food allergens, regulatory reform, science and evidence, consumer research, and digital services like the food hygiene rating scheme. 

I’m so proud of everyone – from FSA staff to environmental health and trading standards professionals, to the food businesses with whom we work most closely.

What is your number one priority for 2022?

The FSA is always here to make sure that food is safe and is what it says it is. 

In 2022, we will refresh our strategy now that the UK is outside of the EU, and we will also help support wider government efforts to make sure food is healthier and more sustainable.

Which historical, mythical or contemporary figure would you most like to join you for a New Year’s Eve celebration?

Bacchus, the Roman god of wine and viticulture, reportedly induced drunkenness, ecstasy and creativity. That sounds like a pretty good night in to me. 

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