New Food Standards Agency Head
Professor Sir John Krebs has now been formally appointed as Chairman of the new Food Standards Agency. He is, in our view, the perfect choice – a rational scientist with no political, commercial or ideological axes to grind. It is, perhaps, because Sir John is such a rational person that the Consumers' Association and food activists such as Professor Tim Lang have described his selection as 'bizarre' and 'disappointing'. Professor Lang, of course, who teaches food policy at Thames Valley University, views food as simply "a key factor in our main sources of premature death" – a notion which is virtually meaningless and certainly quite unscientific.
The Consumers' Association argue that the government have failed to appoint "a strong, credible consumer chair." They clearly do not know John Krebs very well. His tenure as Chairman of the National Environment Research Council has already shown his marked ability not only to achieve a working consensus among people with quite disparate views but also to take tough decisions when science and reason so dictate. In his new role he has already dealt calmly and most effectively with Jeremy Paxman and has refused to be bullied away from his sensible position on GM foods.
Restoring public confidence in food production and safety in Britain will not be an easy task. The public has become fearful of what they eat, fuelled in great part by sensational media coverage which has had little in the way of scientific justification. The activities of self-serving interest groups who claim, falsely, to speak on behalf of us the consumers have added significantly to these ill-informed worries. Certainly, there is a need to ensure that the food we eat is safe. There is also a clear need for people to be provided with objective and evidence-based advice so that they can make informed choices about their diet. But this is quite different from the shrill, agenda-driven propaganda which has so often dominated this arena. We have confidence that the new FSA head will restore the proper sense of balance and integrity that is desperately required to make us think once again of food as being something more pleasurable than Tim Lang's cause of premature death.