University researchers stand to gain as the new Food Standards Agency establishes its independence. The agency, due to come into operation at the end of 1999, is expected to have a Pounds 25 million research budget, which will be transferred directly from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food alongside responsibility for research in food safety and nutrition.
This money will be distributed mainly through open competition, but the Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists, the union representing more than 15,000 scientists, fears the contracts will not be competed for on a level playing field. It says MAFF laboratories may lose out and universities gain.
The IPMS is worried that the agency may steer clear of MAFF laboratories in an attempt to demonstrate its independence. Established research teams may be broken up. David Luxton, IPMS national officer, says universities can cut costs by using research students.
MAFF research in areas marginal to food safety and nutrition, such as research on animal and plant diseases, may not be transferred to the FSA, but "quietly dropped", Mr Luxton said.
E.coli dangers, page 9