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Tim Smith will share the role with government chair, food minister Victoria Prentis

Former FSA boss Tim Smith has been appointed as the new chair of the Food & Drink Sector Council.

Smith, whose past roles also include five years as group quality director at Tesco, has been a leading figure in the industry for more than three decades.

He will share the role with government chair, food minister Victoria Prentis.

The council was hailed as a “game-changer” when it was set up in 2018, then chaired by Stobart boss and Unilever veteran Iain Ferguson.

However, it has not met since May and questions have been raised by members about its effectiveness and remit, amid concerns over divergent policies among the different nations.

The government said it had appointed Smith, who takes on the role from outgoing co-chairs Terry Jones and Ian Wright, because of his unparalleled experience of the sector.

Having held CEO roles at manufacturers including Northern Foods, Sara Lee, Express Dairies and Arla Foods, Smith became FSA CEO in 2008.

He then served under Dave Lewis from 2012 until 2017, in a key period of Tesco’s turnaround.

The government said Smith would lead and challenge the council to inspire and create change from within the sector, as well as looking for opportunities for co-operation in the wider government agenda.

Prentis said: “Tim brings an unrivalled experience of the food and drink sector from his time across a number of different organisations and a fantastic enthusiasm to drive forward the council’s agenda of meeting the challenges currently faced by the industry at large.

“I want to thank outgoing co-chairs Ian Wright and Terry Jones for their expert direction – taking the council through the difficulties of the Covid pandemic and our ongoing recovery.”

Smith said: “The food and drink sector is facing challenges which are unprecedented in my time. It is imperative that industry and the government continue to work in partnership to ensure we have a food system fit for the future.”

“The Food & Drink Sector Council must help provide the strategic oversight to create that system and I’m delighted to take on the role of industry co-chair. I look forward to working with the ministerial co-chair to identify the key issues facing the sector and to find practical actions to address them.”