One surprise after another

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) seems determined to stay in the spotlight at the moment, what with its U-turn on meat hygiene charging and the possibility of Lord Rooker taking over the reins of power from Dame Deirdre Hutton.

News of Rooker's "potential" appointment took some by surprise, given the fact he was thought to be a critic of the FSA in the past. But perhaps having someone who is not a fan in the hotseat could help shake things up.

Tim Smith, the FSA chief executive, is keen to move things forward within the organisation and perhaps Rooker will be the ideal chairman to help make that happen.

The FSA does need to become fleeter of foot. The length of time it took to respond to the highly critical Pennington Report into the South Wales E.coli outbreak was appalling, and maybe it is time that the board either handed over some control to the FSA management, or stepped up its activities. Rooker's background in the food sector, following his tenures as food and farming minister, may prove useful.

In the meantime, the decision to abandon plans to increase the Meat Hygiene Service charges has been welcomed as a "pleasant surprise" by the industry. The FSA was hell-bent on a 4% increase, which in itself was a compromise from its original higher figures. Yet it was forced to drop all attempts at an increase after running into opposition from Northern Irish ministers. The concern now is what those lack of extra funds will means for MHS transformation? Could we see a knock-on effect? We will have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, the 10th SuperMeat & Fish Awards went off with a bang, with more than 400 people at the Hilton for the meat industry's leading event. Congratulations to all our winners and finalists.

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