Food Law News - EU - 2000

Speech, 25 October 2000

FOOD AUTHORITY - Remarks by David Byrne (European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection) at the conclusion of the debate on the White Paper on Food Safety - European Parliament, Strasbourg

Mr President, Honourable Members

First of all, allow me to express my thanks to the very many Members who have contributed to this report. As you are aware, the Commission attaches the highest priority to its strategy on food safety and I must give special thanks to the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy and its Rapporteur, Mr John Bowis for producing this opinion with such a degree of consensus.

The Commission's "White Paper on Food Safety" sets out a major and ambitious programme of legislative reforms to complete the EU's farm-to-table policy approach. Taken together with our proposals to establish a European Food Authority, the programme will make a major contribution to the health protection of our citizens, as well as to the restoration and maintenance of consumer confidence in food safety.

European consumers have every right to expect the highest achievable food safety standards and our ambition is to develop systems that deliver this.

A safe food chain, from farm to fork, correctly regulated and effectively controlled is the road to building high levels of confidence in the European food supply. In this respect the Commission is already hard at work on its programme of legislative reform set out in the White Paper.

Several proposals are already before the Council and Parliament, for example, the package of proposals recasting and updating the hygiene legislation. We are also working on a number of major reforms on the systems of control implemented by the competent authorities in the Member States and at Community level. In this regard, the Commission will adopt, in the period ahead, proposals for a revised control regime.

The White Paper reiterates the Commission's commitment to base its proposals for measures for consumer health protection on sound science. Indeed, the Food Authority is conceived as a point of scientific excellence at the service of the Community in its broadest sense - consumers, the institutions and Member States alike. The Food Authority will also need to be visible to the general public and be the authoritative voice in matters relating to the scientific aspects of food safety in Europe.

The Commission intends to adopt a proposal for a Regulation establishing the overarching principles and objectives for food law, which will provide the framework for future health protection measures relating to food.

This proposal will propose the establishment of a European Food Authority, which will provide advice on scientific and technical issues to the Community and, thereby, enable the Commission to give effect to the general principles of food law. Our intention is to adopt this proposal on 8th November next.

This schedule continues to reflect the importance that the Commission attaches to the matter and is broadly in line with the time-scale set out in the White Paper, which envisages the enabling legislation to be enacted in 2001, leading to the establishment of the Food Authority in 2002. I only wish we could do better in terms of time. I know, Mr President, that you share my wishes in this regard and I look forward to the fullest support from Parliament in dealing with this most important piece of legislation in the shortest possible timeframe.

I have followed the Parliament's debates on the White Paper with very great interest. I am very encouraged to note the high degree of agreement between the Parliament's views, as expressed in the report that you have just debated, and the White Paper itself.

This will certainly facilitate the task of the Commission in bringing forward a balanced proposal that takes maximum account of the views of the Parliament and, indeed, the many stakeholders in the area of food safety.

You will clearly appreciate that I cannot promise to take on board all of your views. But, I believe my record before this House will demonstrate that I will do my utmost.

I have previously acknowledged, in Parliamentary and other fora, what I regard as an important issue for the fullest acceptance of our ideas for a Food Authority. That is to say, the role and involvement of Parliament itself in enacting the legislation establishing the Food Authority. I would like to put it on the record of this House today that I remain committed to Parliament having a full co-decision role in the enactment of this legislation. I believe that is right and proper and I support the Parliament's desire to see Articles 95 and 152 of the Treaty employed to this effect.

In conclusion, Mr President, I would like again to express my appreciation to you, your rapporteur Mr Bowis, the shadow rapporteurs, Mrs Jackson and the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Committee, the other Committees who contributed, and to the House as a whole, for bringing to a close this chapter in our collective endeavours towards improving Europe's food safety regime.

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