Catalogue description Records of Food Standards and Commercial Control

Details of Division within MAF
Reference: Division within MAF
Title: Records of Food Standards and Commercial Control

Records of the commercial control and food standards divisions relating to food safety and quality.

Correspondence to 1957 is in MAF 36. Files relating to animal feeding stuffs are in MAF 79 and MAF 311. Records relating to the operation of the Merchandise Marks Acts are in MAF 210. Registered files on food safety are in MAF 260, with those on origin markings and trade descriptions for food in MAF 415 and fertilisers and feeding stuffs in MAF 422.

For Contaminants files, see MAF 461; Administration files, see MAF 462; Information and Intelligence files, see MAF 463; Food Science files, see MAF 464; Food Surveillance and Contaminants files, see MAF 465; Human Nutrition files, see MAF 466; and Meat Hygiene Poultry Meat files, see MAF 467.

Meat and Meat Products (XMC Series) files are in MAF 703.

Food Standards and Commercial Control Division registered files are in MAF 793 (FSK Series), MAF 794 (FLD Series), and MAF 795 (FSH Series).

Food Science Group: Biotechnology, Radiation and Novel Food Division and Predecessors (BIN Series), MAF 806

Date: 1893-2000
Related material:

See also the records of the Meat Hygiene Service: KM

Records relating to dairy produce standards are in MAF 52

Records relating to seeds standards in MAF 78

Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English
Physical description: 18 series
Administrative / biographical background:

The ministry is responsible for the administration of legislation designed to protect consumers against purchase of agricultural produce of inferior quality.

Commercial Control Divisions

These functions were first exercised by a Commercial Control Branch set up in 1908 and between the two world wars were performed for a time by a separate Commercial Control Division. It was responsible for the administration of the Sale of Food and Drugs Acts as they affected agricultural produce, the Merchandise Marks Acts, the Fertilisers and Feeding Stuffs Act 1926, the Milk and Dairies Acts and the Seeds Acts. It dealt with complaints and questions relating to the transport of agricultural produce and supervised the sale, marking and description of fertilisers, manures and feeding stuffs. After the outbreak of the Second World War these duties were absorbed by a number of other divisions. In 1955 the abolition of the Ministry of Food resulted in the new Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food assuming control of standards for food and food labelling jointly with the Ministry of Health, under the Food and Drugs Act 1955.

Food Standards and Safety Divisions: Structure

From 1860 to 1955, control of food standards was exercised at various times by the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Food, 1939-1955.

In 1955, responsibility for food standards work was given to the newly created Food Standards and Hygiene Division (later the Food Standards, Hygiene and Slaughterhouse Policy Division, 1958-1964), where they were joined by certain responsibilities under the Merchandise Marks Acts for the control of description of foodstuffs, previously handled by the Commercial Control Divisions jointly with the Board of Trade. In 1964, a general reorganisation led to the formation of a Food Standards, Science and Safety Division (later the Food Standards and Science Division, 1970-1972). From 1972 to 1981, and 1988 to 1989, there was a Food Standards Division to tackle this work, and in between a general Standards Division dealing with standards in food, fertilisers and animal feedingstuffs. In 1989 the Food Standards Division was split, and food standards, labelling and additives work was handled by the Food Safety Division I, while Food Safety Division II worked on, amongst other subjects, food irradiation and contamination of food and in particular work arising from the Food Safety Act 1990. The division was also responsible for European Union food law harmonisation and issues of diet and nutrition.

In 1990 a Consumer Protection Division was set up and took over the control of food standards work and in particular work arising from the Food Safety Act 1990. The division was also responsible for European Union food law harmonisation and issues of diet and nutrition. In 1995 this was replaced by a Consumer and Nutrition Policy Division. At the same time, a Food Contaminants Division was set up to co-ordinate policy on chemical contaminants in food, and a Food Hygiene Division was set up to monitor and advise on the microbiological safety of food. Responsibility for food labelling, harmonisation of food laws in the European Union and operation of the Food Labelling Regulations 1984 passed to a new Food Labelling Standards Division. Policy matters relating to food irradiation, additives, novel foods, fertilisers and foodstuffs and chemical contamination were handled from 1990 by the Chemical Safety of Food Division, and policy on microbial contamination by the Microbiological Safety of Food Division (1990-). Technical advice on these issues is provided by units of the Food Science Divisions.

A separate Food Science Division was created in 1972 under the chief scientist (food) to deal with the use of atomic energy in food and agriculture generally, as well as other issues of food technology, nutrition, additives and contamination. In 1987 the Food Science Division was split into four component units: the Food Composition and Information Unit A; the Food Safety and Surveillance Unit B; the Atomic Energy Unit C; and the Food Science Laboratories Unit D. The first three of these were retitled in 1988 as the Food Quality Unit, the Food Safety (Chemical) Unit and the Food Safety (Radiation) Unit respectively. In 1989 the division was split in two: Food Science Division II contained the Food Quality Unit; while the other three Units constituted Food Science Division I. The Food Science Laboratories Unit was removed from the control of Division I in 1990 and established as a separate divisional Food Science Laboratory. In 1992 the units in Division I were reorganised into Food Safety Unit A (Additives and Risk Assessment), Unit B (Radiation) and Unit C (Contaminants), while those in Division II were reorganised into a Food Quality and Technology Unit and Microbiology, Nutrition and Scientific Services Unit (from 1994 the Microbiology, Food Quality and Technical Unit and the Biotechnology, Nutition and Scientific Services Unit).

Food Standards and Safety Divisions: Functions

Powers to control the standards of food and food labelling passed to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 1955 following the abolition of the Ministry of Food, and the minister exercised these powers jointly with the Ministry of Health under the 1955 Food and Drugs Act. Broadly speaking, the powers were to regulate what may, or may not, be contained in a particular food, and to specify how a particular food is labelled or advertised, and in particular what information about its composition should be given to the purchaser. Responsibility for the enforcement of this legislation largely remains in the hands of local authorities.

Technical advice on matters of food standards is given by the ministry's scientific advisor (food). The Ministry of Food's Chief Scientific Advisor's Division was absorbed into the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food as its Scientific Adviser's Division in 1955. The division was disbanded in 1960, but the post of scientific advisor (food) continues, and provides advice on all technical issues, not just food standards, to the minister.

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