The National Food Control Agency must be perceived as a separate and distinct unit with clearly articulated goals and objectives, operating at the interface between Government and the various stakeholders in the food chain. It must be resourced with well-trained staff managing the key food control programs, and provide a transparent means of controlling food across the whole food chain i.e. consumer protection, promotion of food trade and industry by ensuring the safety and quality of food, and preventing fraudulent practices
While the actual structure of a National Food Control Agency will vary from country to country, the following notes describe the role, components, and activities of a typical agency:
Independent of any specific sectoral interest/Ministry and of the food industry;
Governed by a Management Board with a Chairperson and Directors;
Management Board has wide ranging powers, including the formulation of food control policy and the provision of advice to Government;
Provides a coordinating mechanism for uniform implementation of food control activities;
Adopts a strategic view across the whole food chain and consults widely with all sectors of the food chain and all interest groups to ensure public involvement in the policy making process;
Utilizes an open and transparent decision-making process, and able to make public its views on issues related to food safety, public health, and food control;
Operates under the principle of protecting the health status of the consuming public, and providing information and advice that enables consumers to make informed choices;
Responsibilities include the identification of legislative needs; monitoring the efficiency and effectiveness of law enforcement and food surveillance activities; commissioning research; etc;
Statutory powers to coordinate, monitor and audit local agency and provincial food control activities, including food analysis, inspection, enforcement, and education;
Possesses reserve powers that can be brought into effect in the event that enforcement bodies default or are negligent in their duties.
The Management Board should provide corporate governance of the Agency. The Board should satisfy itself as to the adequacy of the systems in place at different levels, take follow-up action as necessary, and give advice to the concerned Minister/s on any matter related to the Agency's mandate. The Management Board should preferably be accountable to the Parliament, or another legislative body of the country, through the concerned Minister, for all the Agency's activities and performance.
The number, conditions of engagement, and tenure of appointment of Board members will be determined by the legislation. In addition to representatives from various Ministries, other members of the Management Board will have experience or expertise in one or more of the following fields:
Public health and epidemiology;
Food science and technology;
Agricultural science and animal health;
Food marketing and trade;
Consumer rights and affairs.
Figure 2: Possible Organizational Structure of a Food Control Agency
Board members should be responsible for taking expert advice and consulting widely to ensure that their decisions are based on the best scientific and technical advice available. As such they will be involved in a strategic role, setting the broad policy and resource framework for the activities of the Agency.
The main responsibility of the Board will be to advise on matters arising out of the administration of the food control system. It will determine matters of policy to the extent provided for within the law and provide overall coordination. It should have the authority to set up sub-committees or sub-groups to deal with specific issues of concern and have the option to co-opt experts for this purpose.
The powers of the Food Control Agency will be vested in the Management Board, and it will decide the extent to which it delegates responsibility for operational activities to the Chief Executive Officer and Agency staff. Ultimately, the Management Board should be accountable for the operations and actions of the Agency.
Chief Executive Officer
The Board, or the Minister on the recommendation of the Board, should appoint the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Agency whose terms and conditions are determined by the Board. The CEO sits as a Member on the Board.
The CEO is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Agency and the supervision of Agency staff, and directly accountable to the Chairperson of the Management Board. The CEO's responsibilities include the provision of advice to the Board, the drafting of legislation, and representation in international negotiations on food standards.
The Scientific Committee
It may also be necessary to have a separate Scientific Committee to assist and advise the Board in matters of scientific nature. The need for appropriate scientific inputs in food control decision-making processes has increased considerably as a result of the SPS Agreement and the norms set by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Therefore, the need for such a Committee at a national level has increased significantly. The Committee should be consulted on matters such as:
Scientific and technical questions relating to food safety and hygiene, including risk assessment;
Food standards and codes of practice;
Nutritional value and content of food and labelling;
Implementation and administration of food inspection services; and
Monitoring and evaluation including regulatory impact assessment.
The Consultative Committee
Broad consultation with industry and trade groups and other concerned stakeholders should be facilitated through the establishment of a "Consultative Committee". This Committee would meet as required to provide views and advice to the Management Board on pertinent issues related to food safety and its regulation throughout the food chain.
The internal structure of the Agency will reflect the principal functions underpinning the management of the food control system. Key areas of responsibility may be defined as programmes, with managers who report to the CEO. Programme areas may typically include the following:
(a) Food Analysis and Surveillance/Food Research;
(b) Food Standards;
(c) Food Inspection;
(d) Support Services/Communication.