Susan Jebb HFSS Conference FSA

FSA chair Susan Jebb has revealed she is to step down at the end of June, after three years in the role.

Jebb, who alongside her FSA role is professor of diet and population health at the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences at the University of Oxford, said she wanted to be able to give her full attention to her role in fighting obesity.

Jebb started as FSA boss in July 2021, taking over as permanent chair of the regulator from interim chair Ruth Hussey, who had succeeded Heather Hancock.

Jebb previously chaired the cross-government expert advisory group on obesity (2007–2011) and the ill-fated Public Health Responsibility Deal Food Network (2011–2015).

Her arrival at the FSA prompted speculation the body could take a more prominent role in public health, following the winding up of Public Health England (PHE).

Ironically, Jebb’s decision to quit emerged on the same day that influential nudge unit Nesta called for the FSA to be put in charge of overseeing new mandatory health targets for the UK’s 11 leading food retailers.

Jebb, however, will not be the person to oversee such a move if it happens.

During her time at the FSA, Jebb began a massive shake-up of local authority food safety inspections amid major cutbacks to frontline staffing levels, which she had been increasingly critical of.

In November she warned the future of the UK’s food safety was being put at risk from “critical” shortages of enforcement staff, as well as claiming the huge backlog of work piled up by cash-strapped local authorities from Brexit and the pandemic had left them unable to properly conduct checks on food companies.

The following month, the FSA was forced to scrap major elements of a programme to modernise local authority food safety and hygiene inspections, after warnings from local authorities and industry bosses.

However, Jebb said it had been a “huge privilege” to lead the FSA, and cited its work in tacking the challenges of Brexit as a key highlight of her time at the helm.

“I am proud of the work the Board has done to enable the FSA to move beyond the immediate consequences of the EU exit and settle into an organisation focused on the most pressing challenges the UK food system faces today, including initiating a series of important reforms,” she said.

“There is still much I want to achieve over the next four months. Our reform programme is urgently needed to enable the FSA to support businesses to do the right thing, deliver efficiencies for the taxpayer and, crucially, uphold the high food standards we all value.

“Alongside my role as FSA chair, I have continued to lead a large research team at the University of Oxford, working to develop the evidence base for interventions to prevent and treat obesity and, looking ahead, I am keen to be able to give that my full attention.’

The FSA said the selection process for the next FSA chair would be led by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) which would soon be launching a recruitment process.