The beleaguered Food Standards Agency has brought in a new head of external affairs, boosting its communications team to 45.

The new position of external affairs and deputy director, communications, has been filled by Stephen Humphreys, who previously worked in communications for Monitor - the independent regulator of NHS foundation trusts.

He will be heading an external affairs team of eight, which is part of the FSA's 45-strong communications team. This compares with the eight full-time press officers, two assistants and five freelancers at Tesco, nine people in Asda's communication team and 16 at Sainsbury's.

The agency has an annual budget of £750m. By comparison, Tesco's UK turnover is £35.58bn, Asda's is about £19bn while Sainsbury's is £18.5bn.

Premier Foods and Cadbury Schweppes, who are both in the throws of radical job cuts, have even leaner communications teams.

Premier, with a turnover of £2.7bn, has a communications team of just one and Cadbury Schweppes, with a turnover of £7.4bn, has an external communications team of six in the UK.

Although all these companies also use external agencies, several retailers expressed their surprise at the scale of the FSA's operation, with one adding: "So that's what we spend our tax payer's money on."

However, the FSA pointed out that its communications team also included administration, marketing and web functions. It added that informing consumers about healthy eating was also fundamental to its operation.