FSA tweet causes industry fury

A tweet promoting #meatfreeweek sent out by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has caused anger in the meat processing industry. 

On its social media page, it endorsed #meatfreeweek, which takes place 1-8 August, in a tweet.

However, according to Association of Independent Meat Suppliers (AIMS), the Agency “overstepped its mark as a non-ministerial government department by actively promoting the campaign #meatfreeweek”.

AIMS issued a statement on behalf of the National Farmers' Union, National Sheep Association, AIMS, British Meat Processors Association, British Poultry Council and the National Federation of Meat & Food Traders, slamming the FSA.

The statement read: “Its [FSA] role is not that of lobbyist but to use its expertise and influence so that people can trust that the food they buy and eat is safe and honest. At no point should it be actively influencing people to make a particular dietary choice.”

Following multiple complaints on Twitter, the FSA took down the tweet, responding on the social media site that “it doesn’t properly reflect our position”.

A statement from the Agency said: "We use our social media channels to flag up many food-related initiatives that consumers might be interested in, helping consumers make choices that are right for them.

"Our recent Food Safety Week campaign, for example, focused particularly on meat and eggs and how to make the most of them safely, wasting less. Our upcoming barbecue campaign will focus on cooking burgers safely at home.

"We continue to support government advice on healthy eating and a balanced diet. NHS Choices advise that people who eat a lot of red and processed meat a day (more than 90g cooked weight) cut down to 70g. On this occasion the wording of the tweet was not appropriate and did not properly reflect our position, so we have removed the message."

Fiona Steiger at the BMPA said:"Although the FSA recognised the error of the tweet and deleted it, it should have been aware from the start that it does not have a role in promoting one food choice over another, that is for other government departments.  We would expect to never see another tweet in this vein again. It does neither the FSA or industry any good when the FSA oversteps both its remit and role."

Richard Griffiths, policy director at the British Poultry Council said that it is the FSA’s job to protect customers and to regulate the food industry to ensure that food business operators produce safe food. “It’s not there to promote choices for consumers or to try and influence the choice of consumers,” he said.

“I think there’s always more that can be done to help producers – particularly the meat industry in the UK.” Although he said that the FSA and the British Poultry Council are “looking in the same direction”, he did admit that the tweet was a mistake.

“It shouldn’t have happened, and it’s not the FSA’s role to promote that sort of thing.”  

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