The new group will bring together key MAFF and DH officials who are essential to laying the groundwork for the Agency's creation.
Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker said:
"The JFSSG marks a new chapter in how food safety issues are handled from now on.
"Scientists at MAFF and the Department of Health do a great deal of good work to make sure that the food we buy is safe to eat; but the variety and breadth of that work needs to be co-ordinated and focused better. That is what this new Group will do.
"It is the precursor to having an accountable, independent Food Standards Agency. In the meantime, Tessa Jowell and I will leave no stone unturned in fulfilling our pledge to put consumers and food safety at the very top of our agenda."
Public Health Minister Tessa Jowell said:
"We are not prepared to compromise on public safety in relation to food.
"We have therefore taken immediate action to ensure the closest co-operation across Government in preparation for the Food Standards Agency."
Besides allowing for closer working on day-to-day food safety and standards issues, this arrangement confirms the co-operation between MAFF and DH in ensuring the best food standards for British consumers.
A White Paper setting out the Food Standards Agency is expected in the Autumn. Minister for Food Safety, Jeff Rooker and Minister for Public Health, Tessa Jowell share a joint role in preparing for the Agency and promoting food safety. The Chief Medical Officer takes on a high-level co-ordinating role in case of any food scares, and ensures that matters affecting human health are presented clearly and comprehensively to the public. JFSSG-related MAFF and DH officials will not be re-located, and will remain accountable to their respective Permanent Secretaries and Ministers. Agriculture Minister Jack Cunningham announced the JFSSG on 30 July 1997, reference MAFF news release 224/97