SCOTLAND – The Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has appointed four new Board members who will support the organization’s efforts to safeguard consumers from food safety hazards and encourage a healthy diet.

The new Board members, Mrs. Christina Bichan, Dr. Paula Charlesworth, Mr. Phillip Couser, and Miss Kate Richards, were all chosen by Maree Todd MSP, Minister for Public Health, Women’s Health, and Sport.

Each will hold a four-year term.

While Mrs. Bichan, Dr. Charlesworth, and Miss Richards will start their positions on April 1, 2023, Mr. Couser began his position on November 14.

 “I am extremely pleased with the quality of candidates who put themselves forward during the recruitment process and believe we have found excellent new Board members, who will help to shape the work we are involved in going forward,” commented Heather Kelman, Chair of the FSS Board.

She noted that the four new members will bring a range of perspectives to the organization, complementing the skills and experience of the Board members who shall continue beyond March 2023, and hopefully filling some of the gaps the regulator shall experience when its three founding Board members step down.

“This is an extremely important time for our organization, as Scotland continues to feel the impacts of our departure from the EU and the implications this has on consumer safety, and the cost of living crisis affects many aspects of our relationship with food. 

“Our new appointments’ breadth of expertise will help ensure that we continue to protect Scottish consumers and promote healthy eating during these challenging times,” she said.

Since 2013, Phillip Couser MBE has held significant positions in Scotland’s National Health Service.

He now serves as a non-Executive Director on the NHS Lanarkshire Board.

When Public Health Scotland (PHS) was founded in 2020, he was selected as its first Director of Data-Driven Innovation. Before leaving this position in July 2021, he oversaw PHS’s early data and digital contribution to the pandemic response.

Before joining PHS, Phillip served as Director for Public Health and Intelligence at NHS National Services Scotland, where he oversaw the divisions of information services and health protection.

He brings a keen interest in public health and a desire for data-driven, digitally enabled transformation from both of these professions.

He was already well-versed in most of the work done by Food Standards Scotland thanks to his oversight of Health Protection Scotland.

Meanwhile, Kate Richards has extensive knowledge of both the public and commercial sectors of agricultural and food production.

She was an official Veterinarian to the Grampian Country Food Group and other businesses in addition to being a farm vet in Aberdeenshire.

Before joining Defra as a farm animal welfare veterinarian advisor after leaving clinical practice, Kate provided advice on livestock health to the UK division of a large pharmaceutical company. There, she was promoted to Scientific Secretary to SEAC, the scientific advisory committee set up in response to the escalating BSE crisis.

Kate has extensive experience in stakeholder engagement and communications, in addition to her veterinary knowledge, from her work in five Whitehall departments, as a Council Member of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS), the veterinary profession’s governing body, and as the RCVS President for the period of 2021–2022.

With over 20 years of experience in the public sector, Christina Bichan has worked both at the national level and on a distant and rural island setting.

She is situated in Orkney, where she works for a family-run food company. Christina has a Master’s Degree in Public Health and experience managing performance, planning, quality improvement, and governance functions within the NHS.

Registered Dietitian Dr. Paula Charlesworth holds a Ph.D. in nutrition and physiology.

She has experience in regulation, having served spells as a professional partner for the Health and Care Professions Tribunal Service, sitting on their Fitness to Practise, Investigatory Committee, and Appeals Panels. She has worked in frontline NHS services, research, and academia.

As a Lay Director and member of the Scottish Solicitors Discipline Tribunal, Dr. Charlesworth also reviews academic programs for educational institutions as the Lead Visitor for the Health and Care Professions Council’s Education and Training Committee.

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