Former Arla Foods executive Tim Smith has been appointed to lead the UK's Food Standards Agency.

Smith, 52, was chief executive of Arla Foods UK before it merged into its Danish parent and Europe's largest dairy firm, Arla Foods.

Smith will assume the position in March, replacing John Harwood, who has had the job since march 2006.

"Now, more than ever, food is an issue of national importance and there is no doubt we have tough challenges ahead of us, especially in the fight against obesity," Smith said.

Smith spent 15 years at Northern Foods. He also had five years at Sara Lee Corp., where he was responsible for the US giant's UK operations.