Chief Executive and Directors

Jason Feeney
Information about the Food Standards Agency's Chief Executive and directors.

Jason Feeney, Chief Executive

Jason joined the then DHSS as an Admin Officer in 1981. He spent his early years in the department working in local offices in Leeds and Bradford in a range of frontline posts. In the 90’s he worked in Finance and in the Security Branch of the Benefit Agency managing their £350m change programme. He also enjoyed a two-year secondment to the NHS Executive working on GP remuneration and primary care funding.

In 2002 he was promoted to the Senior Civil Service and spent two years as Head of Future Pensions. He then led the Central Design Authority before being promoted to be the Business Design Director for The Pension Service in 2005. Following the merger of The Pension Service and the Disability and Carers Service he was appointed Strategy Director for the new agency in May 2008 introducing a number of major service transformations. In December 2010, he was appointed Chief Operating Officer and Deputy CEO for the agency. Following departmental restructuring he was appointed DWP Pensions Director in October 2011. In November 2012, he was appointed DWP Benefits Director with responsibility for 22,000 staff delivering all working age benefits worth about.£30bn a year to over 10m customers. He was made a CBE in the 2011 New Year Honours List.

He was appointed Chief Executive of the Food Standards Agency in April 2017.

Married to Wendy with two children Lucy and Josh. In his spare time he enjoys fell running for Bingley Harriers, mountaineering and cycling.

Steve Wearne, Director of Policy

Steve Wearne was appointed Director of Food Safety in July 2013, the role becoming Director of Policy two months later. Previous to this he was Director of FSA Wales.

Steve is a scientist by training, with a degree in biochemistry and a spell of postgraduate research in molecular biology. Steve joined the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1990 and held a range of posts in food science and food policy development, before transferring to the Agency when it was launched in 2000. His first post in the Agency was head of the Private Office and Private Secretary to the first Chair of the FSA, Sir John Krebs (now Lord Krebs).

Dr Colin Sullivan, Chief Operating Officer

Dr Colin Sullivan joined the FSA in September 2017.

Colin is an optometrist who has more than 20 years’ experience in management within the health and social care sector. He has also worked on international health management consultancy in over 30 countries for Department for International Development, the EU and the World Bank.

He joined the Senior Civil Service in 2008 as Operations Director of the Northern Ireland Social Security Agency, before moving on to be the Director for Universal Credit in Northern Ireland in 2011.

In 2013, he was promoted to Director of Strategic Policy & Reform within the Northern Ireland Department of Finance where his duties have included being Senior Responsible Officer for the devolution of Corporation Tax and NI lead for Public Sector Reform. From January to September 2017 he was the lead civil servant in the establishment of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) public inquiry.

Rod Ainsworth, Director of Regulatory and Legal Strategy

Rod Ainsworth joined the Agency on 6 April 2010 as Director of Legal Services. Prior to this Rod was Group Legal Director for the Affinity Sutton Group, a position he had held since 2006.

Rod has practised as a solicitor since 1981 and has worked for the London Boroughs of Harrow and Brent. In 1986, Rod became a partner at a London law firm specialising in planning, development and public sector work. In 1995, he joined the Audit Commission as its solicitor where he was involved in the Westminster 'homes for votes' case and creating the Audit Commission Inspectorate. In 2004, Rod became Legal Director and Company Secretary for William Sutton.

Julie Pierce, Director of Openness, Data and Digital

Julie joined the FSA in September 2015. She has previously been the Chief Information Officer for Defra and Director of Corporate Services for the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (the predecessor organisation to the Animal and Plant Health Agency). In these roles she has driven new digital solutions to business problems, restructured and developed the organisation, and launched a new open data initiative.

Julie has spent a number of years consulting and leading IT enabled change programmes for both central government and the private sector. She spent over 10 years working for PricewaterhouseCoopers, culminating in her partnership in 2002. Her projects ranged from financial services to aircraft maintenance, and from Warsaw to Malta. However, she started her professional life as an oceanographer with Hunting Surveys working in oil exploration and then joined Logica to exploit satellite imagery in anti-submarine warfare for the UK Admiralty.

She has remained interested in the application of science and new technology throughout her career.

Chris Hitchen, Director of Finance and Performance

Chris Hitchen joined the Agency in January 2010. Prior to this he worked as a Head of Finance at Santander.

Chris graduated in Accounting and Finance in 1992 and gained his Chartered Management Accounting qualification (ACMA) whilst working for Yorkshire Water in 1996. He then spent two years in a Finance role with MD Foods plc (now Arla Foods UK). Joining GE Capital in 1998, he worked in a range of finance roles, latterly as the Head of Finance Auto UK, and was part of the management team that led the sale of the business to Santander in 2009.

Maria Jennings, Director of Northern Ireland and Organisational Development

Maria Jennings was appointed Director of the Food Standards Agency in Northern Ireland in September 2013.

Since joining the team at the FSA in NI in 2001, Maria has held various positions in the Agency and has been responsible for developing legislation and policy in relation to food safety, food standards, imported food control and food fraud, as well as nutrition and dietary health.

She obtained an Honours Degree in Environmental Health from the University of Ulster in 1990 and has more than twenty years’ experience working in the NI public sector. This includes work in a number of district councils enforcing food hygiene and standards legislation in a range of retail, catering and manufacturing premises. She completed a Masters Degree in Environmental Health in 1998.

Maria is a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner and a member of the Food Safety Promotion Board’s Advisory Committee.

Prof. Guy Poppy, Chief Scientific Adviser

Professor Guy Poppy took up his post as Chief Scientific Adviser at the Food Standards Agency in August 2014.

His previous career highlights include:

  • Professor of Ecology at the University of Southampton
  • Director of Multidisciplinary Research at the University of Southampton
  • member of the Research Excellence Framework (REF2014) panel assessing the quality of agriculture, food and veterinary science in the UK

Nina Purcell, Director of Wales and Local Delivery

Nina Purcell took up post as Director of the Food Standards Agency in Wales on 3 February 2014.

Nina was previously the Chief Operating Officer of the Animal Health & Veterinary Laboratories Agency, an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. She joined Animal Health in 2008 as Head of Centralised Services, which she developed over the following two years, before becoming the Director of Change and Director of England.

Nina became Chief Operating officer on the newly merged Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency in 2011, where she oversaw the restructure of the operational delivery and developed a new animal disease outbreak management model for Britain.