Last week the Food (Scotland) Bill, which will set up a Food Standards Scotland Agency, was debated at Holyrood.

The FSS will replace the Food Standards Agency in Scotland and will have a wider remit to allow it - and the public - to be more pro-active over public health, with greater powers of enforcement to issue penalties and to prosecute non-compliance more quickly.

This is surely essential, given the recent horsemeat-in-burgers scandal, which exposed flaws in the complicated and often unregulated global food chain, and the fact that E.coli O157 is consistently reported more frequently in Scotland than in the rest of the UK, with around 250 cases annually. Food poisoning from campylobacter, listeria and viruses is a significant cause of illness, and even death, in Scotland. It's estimated that around 132,000 people suffer a food poisoning incident each year in ­Scotland; around 2330 people need hospital treatment as a result; and around 50 people die of it. This is franky shocking, and exposes weakness in public food-safety procedures.

The idea for a independent Scottish food standards operation was first mooted in 2010, when the UK Coalition Government took the decision, without consulting Scotland, to transfer responsibility for nutrition and food labelling and standards in England from the FSA to the Department of Health and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Scottish Public Health Minister Michael Matheson said the changes in England removed significant capacity in the FSA's functions for Scotland and needed to be addressed. The new FSS will come under his control. This is the first UK-wide national public body to form a break-away operation independent of Westminster.

In the Stage 1 Report on the Food (Scotland) Bill, Sue Davies of Which? suggested that the new responsibilities would provide an opportunity to ensure that FSS tackles issues that are specific to Scotland. In particular, she said, it could focus more on issues of diet and health than has been possible under the Food Standards Agency.

Most respondents agreed with the rationale for creating the new body: that Scotland had unique circumstances related to diet and food-borne illnesses, that changes made in the UK had made it necessary, and that there was a need to have a single body responsible in Scotland for the whole range of food-related policies.

Some of those representing the food and retail industries opposed the creation of the FSS and preferred the status quo. The Scottish Retail Consortium, for example, was concerned that a move from having a single body that does everything across a single market might lead to resources and expertise being denuded. Others did not question the creation of the new food body, but sought assurances about its working practices.

The FSS promises to be more responsive and accountable - welcome news after the recent E.coli outbreak at the Glasgow Hydro, for example.

When it does get the bit between its teeth, it needs to be alert to new challenges of the global food chain, new germs borne of climate change, illegal practices, and GM foods.