Food Law News - EU - 2000

EP News Report, 11 October 2000

FOOD AUTHORITY - Towards a European Food Safety Authority

The Environment Committee has adopted the report by John BOWIS (EPP-ED, UK) on the Commission white paper on food safety, which contains proposals for the establishment of a European food safety body (EFSA). Although the European food chain is considered one of the safest in the world, poor practice and scandals have caused concern. Risks therefore need to be identified early, assessed scientifically and nipped in the bud. EU action is appropriate because in a single market these risks do not stop at national or even external borders.

The Environment Committee believes the EFSA's remit should firstly be to assess risks in the field of food safety and to give scientific advice. It should also provide information to the public about its scientific conclusions and recommendations, although the Commission would remain responsible for explaining risk management decisions. The EFSA should play a key role in the existing Rapid Alert System, which should be improved and extended to cover all areas of food safety, including animal feed. The Director of the EFSA should be appointed by the Commission after a public hearing before the relevant Parliament committee. The EFSA, which should work in close cooperation with national food safety agencies, must be given powers to require Member States to provide such information, statistics and research reports in their possession as the EFSA Board may consider necessary to assess a particular risk.

Instead of the proposed name European Food Safety Agency, the committee voted in favour of calling the body an Authority. It also called for the EFSA to develop close contacts with the main consumer protection organisations to promote the exchange of information on risk assessment. Member States that do not yet have independent food agencies were asked to establish them. In addition, the committee felt the EFSA should establish a close relationship with other bodies such as the US Food and Drug Agency, the Codex Alimentarius, the WHO, the FAO and the WTO.

Finally the Commission was asked to consider a number of legislative priorities in addition to the establishment of the EFSA. These include a General Food Law Directive and amendments to existing EU legislation on feedingstuff ingredients, pesticide and dioxin levels, BSE, the addition of nutrients to food and processed baby foods.

The report will be on the agenda for the October II part-session in Strasbourg.

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