Food Law News - EU - 2001

EP News Report, 29 May 2001

FOOD LAW/EUROPEAN FOOD AUTHORITY - Environment Committee and Commission at odds over food law and EU Food Authority

The Environment Committee has adopted the report by Phillip WHITEHEAD (PES, UK) on the Commission proposal for a regulation laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing a European Food Authority, and laying down procedures in matters of food. Although the proposal was welcomed in general, MEPs criticised its content and adopted some 200 amendments to the text.

Firstly, the word safety was added to the name of the Authority on the ground that this was its purpose. It would thus be called the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The committee also differed from the Commission on the role of the Authority and questions of risk assessment and risk management, transparency, the composition of the Management Board, the financing of the EFSA and the location of its headquarters.

MEPs argued that the members of the Management Board should be no more than 12 in number, including two from the food industry and two consumers' representatives. They should be proposed by the Commission following a process of open application. Not every Member State should have a representative on the Board. All appointments should be made on merit and be individually subject to confirmatory hearings by Parliament.

While it was argued that risk assessment, risk communication and risk management could not be separated as easily as the Commission's proposal suggested, MEPs saw risk assessment as being the duty of the EFSA and risk management as ultimately the province of the Commission.

Thus, Commission and committee were at odds over the Rapid Alert System (RAS) for food and animal feed, which is to be used for example in cases of contamination or illegal movement of these products. The Commission intended the EFSA to be responsible for this system. However, MEPs felt its day-to-day management was a task for the Commission.

The committee also set out its views on where the Authority should be located, saying the location should have a long-standing tradition in food safety, enhance the Authority's independence and integrity, provide a good scientific infrastructure and facilities in the field of food safety and also be easily accessible.

Regarding the mission of EFSA, MEPs said it should include animal health and welfare, plant health, nutrition and matters relating to genetically modified organisms and the labelling of foodstuffs. Lastly, a number of more technical amendments were adopted.

Food law and the EFSA are a priority of the Swedish Presidency but Council may now have to cope with a highly critical stance from Parliament when adopting its common position in June.

The report (codecision procedure, first reading) is scheduled for plenary debate on Tuesday 12 June in Strasbourg.

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