Some of the Food Standards Agency (FSA) responsibilities will be transferred to the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Government has confirmed.

The DoH will take over nutrition policy and Defra has been given responsibility for country of origin labelling.

Some press reports had said the FSA will be scrapped. Instead, the FSA will “continue providing independent expert advice to people about food safety” said health secretary Andrew Lansley.

The DoH said the reorganisation reflected its key priority of improving the health of the nation by creating a public health service.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it is essential that technical expertise is not lost and that structures are less important than results.

BRC food policy director Andrew Opie said: “How Government chooses to allocate these responsibilities is not the priority.

“What matters to us is the end result for customers and businesses. Any Government changes must leave us with a structure that does as good a job for customers and businesses as the FSA has done in the past.

“Labelling and food composition are complex, technical issues that are crucial to food retailers. Thousands of the products they sell every day will be affected. Food labelling is a key issue for retailers. Currently, we’re in the middle of a fundamental European labelling review.”

He added: “It’s vital the high-level of expertise and collaborative approach that’s previously been available from the FSA is retained once responsibility for these issues has been transferred.

“UK-wide retailers need consistency. We’ve yet to hear how this will work In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Effective delivery of health and nutrition campaigns requires good co-ordination. Avoiding a fragmented food policy is now the challenge for government departments and the devolved assemblies.”