The project, which is in its early stages, forms part of the World Class Regulator, an initiative presented to the FSA’s board.
Philip Clarke, head of better regulation, told FoodNavigator.com that the first round of short-term secondments have been organized with Noon Foods for next month, and others are under negotiation.
Clarke is particularly interested in hearing from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that could accommodate a secondee. Although larger firms may find it easier to take a FSA staff-member, he explained that SMEs face practical pressures when it comes to compliance that the agency would like to understand.
Out from behind the desk!
The secondment programme has already met with enthusiasm from the director general of the Food and Drink Federation Melanie Leech. She said in a speech at the New Regulatory Reform Agenda Conference 2008 yesterday that she is “delighted” that the secondments are starting to happen.
She stressed the need for “those at the top of the regulatory pyramid to really understand the industries they seek to regulate” – and said she has been a constant advocate of getting people out from behind their desks to see what it is really like to run a business.
“I understand the time-pressures – but if you don’t understand business pressures and the issues facing them every day how can you regulate intelligently?”
FDF has also offered briefings on the industry to new FSA board members, which she believes have been well-received.
The secondment programme
Clarke said that the secondments are envisaged as short-term – “two to three weeks, depending on what the business can accommodate”.
He stressed that the aim is to educate FSA staff members, not to impose on the businesses or to carry out an inspection; his team will give guidance both to the business and to FSA staff members.
When a food company confirms it can offer a place, agency staff will be invited to express an interest, giving details of what they think they would get out of the experience, and how they would share the knowledge within the agency on their return. The scheme is open to all FSA staff members, full and part-time.
Food businesses interested in accommodating an FSA secondee can contact Philip Clarke at philip.clarke ‘at’ foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk.