EU moves to strengthen food safety controls

Draft regulation proposed to lay down new legal principles, create European food authority

The European Commission today unveiled a draft regulation to strengthen food safety laws in the EU and to create a new European food authority (EFA), as promised in a white paper earlier this year (ENDS Daily 12 January). As foreseen, the EFA should be in operation by 2002. The new package of measures added up to "a proactive food policy covering the entire food chain, from the farm to the fork," said EU health and consumer affairs commissioner David Byrne.

The EFA would identify emerging risks and inform the public in a sound and timely fashion, Mr Byrne said. It would initially have a budget of euros 40m and 250 staff. An advisory forum of 15 independent representatives of national food agencies would assist the EFA in its work. Eight new scientific panels would be charged with giving independent scientific opinions, including advice on technical food issues, and monitoring food safety in the EU.

The mainly advisory body should focus on its important role of "identifying risks" and operate the "rapid alert system covering both food and feed," the Commission said. A network of "close cooperation with similar bodies in member states" should be created, Mr Byrne added.

"Safety is the most important ingredient in our food....We have to regain public confidence in the capacity of the food industry and in public authorities to ensure that food is safe," Mr Byrne said, adding that "food transparency is the overall emphasis."

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and press release.

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