I would love to have been a fly on the wall at Tim Smith's interview for the CEO role at the Food Standards Agency. How does the ex-chief executive of Arla Foods UK, a purveyor of precisely the kind of products the FSA would like us to consume less of - cheese, butter and even whole milk - prepare for a question on the Nutrient Profiling Model or the merits of the traffic-light labelling system?
It seems he managed to skirt round them OK, however, because from March he will oversee these highly controversial FSA initiatives (see p14).
Let me be the first to say, I welcome his appointment. The FSA has previously regarded food industry appointments with suspicion, but Smith brings the perfect skills set to the job. As a scientist, he balances chair Dame Deirdre Hutton's experience in regulation. But it is his critical understanding of "the world of grey", as Warburton's chairman Jonathan Warburton put it, that is so important.
And there was further positive news from the FSA this week, with a decision to alter its guidelines for breakfast cereal to distinguish between natural sugar, such as dried fruit, and added sugar (see p4).
This is another step in the right direction. While I agree with cereal manufacturers who argue that the standard 100g measurement is iniquitous, I don't agree that "sugar is sugar", as 'slow-releasing' sugars do not bring about the problematic blood sugar rush and dried fruit also contains positive nutrients - a point that has been one of the cornerstones of our Weigh It Up! campaign against the Nutrient Profiling Model. This is currently being reviewed but we hope the same positive thinking is brought to NPM, and specifically with regard to honey, raisins and, for that matter, cheese. Welcome aboard, Tim.