Food Standards Agency

Safer Food for the Nation

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) was set up by an Act of Parliament in 2000 to protect the public's health and consumer interests in relation to food. The Agency is an independent Government Department, ultimately accountable to Parliament through the Secretary of State for Health. As an independent regulator and consumer protection body, the Agency uses the best available evidence and works with many stakeholders in pursuit of its vision of safe food for all (

Operational Research at the FSA

The OR unit supports the full range of the FSA's business in the broad areas of Corporate Strategy, Operation Delivery and Food Safety Policy. Specific projects include:

  • Strategy Development - helped to ensure department resources and controls are aligned to risk by modelling the public health impact of food safety hazards across the food chain. Other projects that have assisted with strategic thinking have also been conducted such as work on horizon scanning. This involved producing a trend analysis pack that built on drivers that might impact on the FSA and food safety in the future.
  • Setting a target for Campylobacter in chicken - One of the strategic priorities of the FSA is to reduce Campylobacter in chickens. A working group, including members of the OR team, policy colleagues and Industry stakeholders was formed to agree a target for Industry. The OR team helped the group explore issues such as the point to set the target and how it should be framed, and in collaboration with the group built a simulation model of the chicken production process to inform the level of target agreed.
  • Research Prioritisation - the Food Standards Agency requires a strong Science and Evidence base to support its work and each year the Agency prioritises potential research to commission. The OR unit has developed and operates a multi criteria decision analysis tool which ranks proposed projects and is used to help decide whether or not to do a project.
  • Risk Profiling of Food Establishments - Local Authorities monitor many food establishments (e.g. restaurants) on behalf of the FSA to maintain adequate levels of food hygiene and minimise foodborne disease. The OR team is working with Statistics colleagues to improve the way in which the current risk assessment scorecard captures the risk that establishments pose to public health by understanding which of their attributes best reflect that risk. The results will inform revision of the Food Law Code of Practice, leading to safer food and more cost effective control of food establishments.

Methods in recent use include problem structuring, strategy development, performance measurement, spreadsheet modelling, multivariate analysis, multi-criteria decision analysis, Monte-Carlo simulation, cost/benefit models, systems thinking, horizon scanning, decision trees and forecasting & time series analysis.

What to expect

The OR unit is part of the FSA's Analysis & Research Division. OR team members work closely both with their Economics, Statistics and Social Science colleagues within the division and with their Policy clients throughout the Agency.

The OR branch has five OR professionals. The Food Standards Agency is located in Holborn, Central London, close to Covent Garden. We actively encourage career development, providing training and development opportunities tailored to meet individuals' needs.