Key issues were: the intended relationship between the general food law elements of this proposed regulation and national legislation; the structure and composition of the management board; the advisory forum; openness of operation of the EFA; the rights of Member States to request scientific opinions; and, involvement of outside interests in the scientific panels.
At the most recent 'Friends' meeting, there was a protracted discussion of how the principles and requirements of general food law would impact upon Member States' and Community legislation and the timing of coming into force. As it stands, the FSA awaits Council Legal Service's clarification on these crucial issues. Together with other Member States, the FSA continues to question the composition of the EFA's management board although the UK is in a minority of one pressing for appointment on the basis of merit against published criteria. The role of the Advisory Forum, crucial to the success of the EFA's networking function, has been clarified in the text and the FSA has continued to argue that Member States, the European Parliament and the Commission should all be on an equal footing in terms of rights to requesting scientific opinions from the EFA. Last but not least, the latest text allows the possibility of observers being invited to meetings of the Scientific Panels.
There have been small changes to the text that was included with the FSA letter of 10 May e.g. addition of a definition of "final consumer" which "means the ultimate consumer of a foodstuff who will not use the food as part of any food business operation or activity". The FSA has received a number of comments in response to their last letter, but they state that they would not expect there to be substantive changes to the text from this point on.
The FSA mentioned in earlier letters that the Swedish Presidency is pursuing an ambitious timetable seeking agreement between the Council and the European Parliament by the end of June. The proposal is on the agenda for ministers meeting in the Internal Market, Consumers and Tourism Council (IMC) on 30-31 May and the European Parliament is due to give its first reading on 12 June. Following that, the Swedes have indicated that they will schedule an additionallMC meeting for 26 June if it looks as though agreement could be reached at that point.
The FSA do not know if the Swedes are planning to hold any more 'Friends' meetings.