FSA approach to consultations

Our approach to consultations is explained in this policy statement, which aims to inform you and other stakeholders about how we seek and take into account views when we make legislation, guidance and policy decisions.

Why do we consult?

It is our duty to ensure that decisions are properly informed, and consulting with you is vital to ensure that our decisions take account of relevant opinions. We consult on changes to food and feed law and on any policy proposal, including guidance, that impacts stakeholders.

Our consultation process follows the Cabinet Office Consultation Principles and complies with The Regulators' Code

Who do we consult?

We seek to consult all relevant stakeholders and regularly update our stakeholder database. Normally we have separate consultations in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The results are considered together but at times different decisions are taken for different countries.

We aim to identify stakeholders that are directly affected, or have specific expertise, for each individual consultation. We consider whether proposals might impact on specific stakeholder groups, including minority groups or those that might normally be less likely to respond to government consultations, and make effort to involve them in the consultation process so that they have the opportunity to respond.

How do we consult?

We consult by a variety of methods, both formal and informal, and adapt our methods to the issue on which we are consulting. Our aim is to undertake meaningful engagement with our stakeholders throughout our decision making process.

For significant policy and legislative changes we will undertake a formal consultation. We publish all consultations on our website and notify our stakeholders by email and send out paper copies to those who do not have access to email. We generally issue formal consultations for at least 12 weeks, although for some more urgent or minor issues, we consider a shorter period or alternative consultation methods.

We supplement formal written consultation with other engagement methods suited to stakeholder needs, and that are most effective based on the particular issue under consultation. In certain cases we rely on informal methods alone, provided this is proportionate and appropriate to do so.

Engagement methods we use include:

  • issuing letters to Interested Parties to obtain their views.
  • face-to-face meetings with individuals or small groups of stakeholders
  • public meetings
  • focus groups, professional or social networks

We take into account access needs and can provide the consultation documents in alternative formats such as Braille.

In our consultation documents, we aim to:

  • use plain English and avoid using jargon, abbreviations and acronyms wherever possible
  • be transparent about what decisions stakeholders can influence, by being clear about the scope of our consultations and what we are seeking views on
  • provide clear information about how to respond and get involved in any consultation events or activities
  • provide an assessment of the impact of any proposals to identify the benefits, costs and risks
  • set out what will happen after the consultation exercise closes.

We usually provide specific questions to focus attention on key issues and to encourage stakeholders to provide evidence and reasoning to support their views.

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How can you respond?

We seek to be as flexible as possible in how we receive consultation responses, including emails and letters but also by phone, or in person at a meeting.

What do we do with your responses?

We produce and publish a report on our website that summarises the responses received and our views on these within three months of the closing date of the consultation. A paper copy of the summary can be made available on request for those without internet access. Copies of all responses can be made available on request.

Where respondents have sent in a 'Publication of Personal Data' form asking that personal details are not disclosed, we respect this, deleting personal information accordingly before making the response available or publishing summary response reports on our website. When respondents have asked for information to be kept confidential, we ensure we comply with Freedom of Information law, including relevant exemptions.

All other information held by the Food Standards Agency is subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and Environmental Information Regulations 2004 and may be published and/or disclosed in response to a request unless it is exempt under the provisions of the legislation. Information provided in response to a consultation may be withheld from disclosure if relevant exemptions apply.

Welsh Language scheme

Where appropriate we produce consultations in Welsh as well as English, and we do so simultaneously in accordance with our Welsh Language Scheme. The scheme allows exceptions to translation only when the document is of a technical nature or aimed at a specialist or limited audience. Annexes and Summaries of Responses are not translated.


Contacts for further information

Chris Harvey
tel: 020 7276 8308

Hilary Neathey
email: hilary.neathey@foodstandards.gsi.gov.uk
tel: 02920 678911

Northern Ireland:
Barry Fisher
tel: 02890 417704

The statement will be reviewed at least every three years.