Food Law News - EU - 2000
24 May 2000: FOOD AUTHORITY - The ESC's response to the European Commission's White Paper on Food Safety
ESC Press Release (CES/00/51), 24 May 2000
The ESC's response to the European Commission's White Paper on Food Safety
In its Opinion adopted today the ESC supports much of the content of the European Commission's White Paper on Food Safety.
The Opinion deals in depth with the central question of how best to guarantee food safety for Europe's consumers. The ESC thus particularly welcomes:
- the Commission's integrated approach to issues relating to the food chain;
- the strengthening of the EU's operational capacity and the creation of a new body - the planned European Food Authority (EFA) - which is to be responsible for risk assessment and communication; and
- the modernising and simplification of existing food legislation, to create more coherence and enable new measures to be launched where needed.
The ESC has however identified a number of shortcomings in the Commission's plans and their future implementation:
- The Rapid Alert System: Experience has shown up to now that this system is not sufficiently rapid and efficient. The Commission should become fully accountable for the system's overall performance. The structure of the system needs to be established in such a way that responsibilities are properly assigned to the Member States and other parties involved.
- Social aspects: The ESC points out that the White Paper does not mention the importance of working conditions for ensuring that procedures are carried out properly. It thus calls for clear, understandable rules which workers will find easy to apply.
- Nutritional aspects: EU food policy must focus not just on safety but on nutrition and diet as well. Health promotion should play a major role in any discussion of food safety, taking into consideration traditions in national diets.
On the crucial matter of the planned European Food Authority, the ESC makes a number of detailed recommendations. In addition to the tasks assigned in the White Paper the ESC believes that the EFA should:
- be the only body responsible for defining and implementing suitable risk assessment models that enable evaluation of food safety risks;
- play a key role in ensuring that consumers are formally involved in stimulating further fields of action if deemed appropriate;
- be confined to questions of food safety and should not extend to environmental issues, if food safety is not involved;
- give scientific advice for the approval of novel foods, novel ingredients or novel production methods to the Commission;
- have responsibility for assessing the risks of new additives, and flavourings;
- evaluate the safety of pesticide residues, animal medicine residues and contaminants in food;
- establish a Community-based system of collection of nutritional and food consumption data, including the establishment of a surveillance system of diet-related illnesses;
- ensure that health related claims are assessed effectively; and
- provide impartial and objective scientific assistance to the European institutions on food safety issues that affect the obligations of the European Union under international trade treaties, including any issues arising from the WTO Disputes Settlement Procedure.
The ESC also notes that the White Paper does not make it clear whether food from the sea (i.e. fish, crab, shell-fish etc.) and aquaculture products are included in its scope. A coherent food policy should cover all or the vast majority of foodstuffs involved in all links of the food chain, from fisheries to agricultural products. The ESC also notes that no reference is made to the inclusion of drinking water in the scope of food safety legislation and urges the Commission to trigger the necessary procedures to remedy this.
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