Chair of the Food Standards Agency (VAC-1692)

Body: Food Standards Agency
Appointing Department: Department of Health
Sector: Health
Location: London/Various
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: The FSA Chair is remunerated at a rate of £70,000 per annum
Time Requirements: 2.5 to 3 days per week

Campaign Timeline

  • Competition Launched


  • Closed for Applications

    25/01/2021 at midday

  • Panel Sift


  • Final Interview Date


  • Announcement



Assessment Panel

Vacancy Description


Ministers are seeking to make a Chair appointment to the board of the Food Standards Agency (FSA). The Chair is appointed by the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care acting jointly with the appropriate Ministers in Wales and Northern Ireland.

Role and Responsibilities of the Chair

The Chair of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is accountable to Parliament directly, via Select Committees, and – on the floor of the Houses of Parliament and other Assemblies – through the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Health Ministers in Northern Ireland and Wales.

The Chair will be expected to provide leadership and challenge to the organisation through delivery of the following responsibilities:

  • Work with the Board and Chief Executive to set the strategic direction for the FSA, ensuring the department continues to be highly effective in protecting public health, the consumer’s wider interests in relation to food, and delivering its mission of “food we can trust”, whilst recognising the need to regulate in a proportionate way, balancing risk and freedom to make choices
  • Champion the FSA’s core values of putting the consumer first; science and evidence-based decision making; being independent of specific sectoral and political interests; and operating on the basis of transparency and openness
  • Provide leadership for the Board to fully discharge its governance, assurance and strategic responsibilities as a non-Ministerial department, including scrutiny of and support to the Executive
  • Ensure the effective recruitment, induction, development and performance management of Non-Executive Directors, Chief Executive, Chief Scientific Adviser and Chair of the Science Council. Develop and maintain a supportive working relationship with the Chief Executive and Chief Scientific Adviser
  • Lead close working relationships with health and food Ministers in all three countries and with the Chair of Food Standards Scotland, working across organisational boundaries to support UK food standards policy delivery
  • Lead effective working relationships with local authorities to help ensure food stays safe and honest, implementing the FSA’s powers under the food standards act to influence and oversee local authority feed and food law enforcement.
  • Lead stakeholder relationships with senior industry, science and consumer figures, and Parliamentarians, thus setting the tone for excellent working relationships, and represent the FSA at meetings, conferences and public events
  • Represent the FSA effectively in the media, and at meetings, conferences and other public fora, whether addressing strategic consumer interests in relation to food, or dealing with specific high-profile food and feed safety concerns


Person Specification

The Department of Health and Social Care values and promotes diversity and encourages applications from all sections of the community. The boards of public bodies should reflect the population they are there to serve. Boards also benefit from fresh perspectives, and we are always keen to encourage candidates with private sector experience to consider applying for our roles.

Essential Criteria

To be considered, you must be able to demonstrate that you have the qualities, skills and experience to meet all the essential criteria for appointment.

  • Strong strategic leadership skills and a career record of achievement at the highest levels, with the ability to lead a significant national organisation through a period of high-profile scrutiny
  • Able to deliver the highest standards of board level and public sector accountability, including strong governance, accountability, probity and propriety, developing a high-performing board, and working effectively with an executive
  • To demonstrate leadership and commitment to inclusive practice and promoting equality of opportunity
  • Excellent communication skills, comfortable about operating in the open, including with the media
  • Politically astute and adept at building productive and supportive relationships with multiple stakeholders in governments, industry, science and consumer fields
  • Scientific literacy, including confidence in working with scientific advice; understanding of risk; and an appreciation of evidence-based policymaking (Note: it is not essential for candidates to have deep or professional scientific expertise)
  • A clear commitment to the Food Standards Agency’s role in protecting public health, the consumer’s wider interests in relation to food, and delivering its mission of “food we can trust”


Additional Information

Message from the outgoing FSA Chair, Heather Hancock   

I’m delighted that you are considering applying to chair the Board of the Food Standards Agency (FSA). You would be taking over the reins at a pivotal moment in the way we protect public health and consumers’ interests in food. Leading this department is an immensely rewarding experience and brings fascinating and sometimes testing challenges and opportunities.

For 20 years, the FSA has occupied a relatively unusual position as a non-Ministerial department in three governments – England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The department was created in the wake of the BSE crisis, which saw consumer confidence plummet when it came to food safety and political influence. That is why we are free of political direction, have a high degree of independence, and operate by putting the consumer first.  The lessons of BSE are also woven into our absolute commitment to operate in the open and transparently, and on the basis of science and evidence. Our relentless focus on these founding principles is a major reason why we enjoy such high levels of public trust – 73% in the last survey, putting us in the top ten of most reputable Public Sector organisations.

As we move towards the end of EU transition, the FSA is looking forward to implementing four years’ preparations for repatriating responsibilities from the EU. We are confident our preparations will provide a fully effective, equivalent regulatory regime that secures the same high standards for food we all expect in the UK.  The three Governments we work with are publicly committed to maintaining our current food standards, and we intend to sustain our influential global position on food safety and regulation. But we are acutely aware that hardly a day passes without the impact of future trade deals on our food being in the headlines.   The emotive and economic importance of food will see our risk analysis and our advice to Ministers being scrutinised, tested and challenged.   As Chair, you will lead the Board and the executive team in navigating this environment, delivering on the FSA’s mission to ensure that the public can trust that their food is safe and authentic, and can always look to the FSA for the truth about food.

EU Transition isn’t the only complex change on our agenda.  The FSA Board is committed to innovation and to making it easy for food businesses to do the right thing.  We have a long term programme to modernise the regulatory regime, becoming more agile in the face of rapid change in the global food system, and using surveillance and horizon scanning to get ahead of future threats.  And we have made a major commitment to make life better for people with food allergies and intolerances – health issues that can have as big an impact on people’s lives as ‘traditional’ microbiological risks from food, but which for too long have been overlooked.

In chairing the FSA, you will be leading the Board to set strategic priorities for fulfilling the FSA’s statutory purposes, setting targets and measuring outcomes to track progress, and assuring delivery of programmes and plans. The Board takes major decisions on public health and regulatory matters, which frequently includes the expert advice of our independent scientific committees as well as our in house science and research teams.   The FSA Chair leads on a wide range of stakeholder relationships, none more important than with Ministers and elected members in the three administrations.  We handle most of our own Parliamentary and National Assembly business, although legislation and ‘floor of the House’ matters are handled by the relevant Public Health Minister. A further critical relationship is with our sister department in Scotland, Food Standards Scotland.

Today, the FSA Board is enthused by the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. We want to be regarded as an excellent, accountable, modern regulator. I have found chairing the FSA to be exciting, intellectually challenging and rewarding, and very enjoyable.  We have a great team of dedicated and knowledgeable officials, led by a talented CEO.  There’s a lot to do, and the capacity, drive and determination to do it – and all the time, we seek to make a positive difference to the health and quality of life of everyone across the country.

Heather Hancock LVO DL

Chair, Food Standards Agency


Food Standards Agency role and responsibilities

The FSA is an independent non-ministerial government department, set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public’s health and consumer interests in relation to food.

We are concerned with the safety of food right along the food supply chain, from when it is produced, to when it is served on the plate. As the national authority responsible for food safety, we set the regulations that food businesses are obliged to follow, and work with delivery partners across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to make sure those regulations are enforced. We want the public to have trust in the food they eat, and that is why we work in an open and transparent way, making sure that consumer health and interests are at the heart of everything we do.

The FSA is accountable to the UK parliament and assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland. We work closely with colleagues in Food Standards Scotland to provide a robust and coherent regulatory regime, to make sure that consumers across the UK can have confidence that the highest level of food standards are being set and maintained. To help achieve this aim, the department has offices in London, Cardiff, Belfast, York and Birmingham, and employs over 1,300 staff. We not only work with a range of other government partners, which includes providing advice to Ministers across three governments, but also actively engage internationally. We make sure that we play an important role in supranational standard setting and sharing best practice with other national competent authorities.

As the central authority for food and feed safety in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we face a large range of complex and time-dependent challenges. Food and Drink is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector and the Agri-food sector as a whole contributed almost £122bn to national Gross Value Added in 2017. Furthermore, the national and global context in which the FSA operates is changing at great speed, and the FSA needs to continue to evolve in order to meet changing public demands. With dynamic global trade bringing greater choice to UK consumers than ever before, the advent of new purchasing practices and changing dietary preferences, and the need for holistic approaches to health, wellbeing and the environment, the FSA must keep pace with societal expectations. In doing so, the FSA must take advantage of new technologies and data-driven processes to support a risk-based approach to both standard setting and enforcement of over 600,000 businesses.

A major challenge facing the Agri-food sector is an increased potential for illegal and illicit activity through food crime due to the rapidly changing regulatory landscape. The FSA is fully committed to ensuring the authenticity and provenance of food right along the supply chain, with the establishment of the National Food Crime Unit. The department also has a rapid and resilient response to food incidents, investigating 2,323 food, feed and environmental contamination incidents in 2018/19 alone.

The FSA’s ambition is to be recognised at home, and abroad as an Excellent Accountable Modern Regulator. The FSA’s statutory purpose is protecting public health, and the consumers’ wider interests, in relation to food.

To deliver this the FSA applies three core principles:

  • Operating in the consumer interest;
  • With openness and transparency; and
  • Taking decisions and providing advice on the basis of science and evidence.

The FSA’s strategic priorities for 2020/21 are:

  • EU exit
  • Regulatory reform
  • Operations Transformation
  • Hypersensitivities

In all our work the FSA is committed to:

  • Developing scientific capability to ensure that our work is based upon rigorous and up-to-date scientific advice, including continuous assurance of our risk analysis programme
  • Ensure that food safety regulatory activity in the UK is modernised so that it is risk-based, data-driven, and fit-for-purpose
  • Becoming a global leader in food safety regulation, through collaboration and information sharing with likeminded organisations across the globe
  • Persuading UK trading partners as to the quality and effectiveness of the UK’s food safety regulatory regime.

A wide range of information about the FSA’s work can be found on our website at:   and the ‘About us’ brochure:

(English Version)

(Welsh Version)​

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