The Commission's proposal to set up a European Food Authority with the aim of overseeing food safety at a European level is strongly supported by Phillip WHITEHEAD (PES, East Midlands), reporting for the Environment Committee but there are considerable differences on points of detail, hence the amendments. For starters, Mr Whitehead would like to see the word "safety" in the new title of the new body so that there are no ambiguities over its role. It would therefore be called the European Food Safety Authority. While there is agreement on its essentially advisory role, the committee would like to see its remit widened to include animal health and welfare, plant health, genetically modified organisms and food labelling. Mr Whitehead also wants the role and functions of the new body clearly defined with no ambiguity. In other words, each operator in the food chain should have clear lines of responsibility as far as safety is concerned.
Furthermore, MEPs see risk assessment as the duty of the EFSA and risk management as ultimately the province of the Commission.
On the question of a 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 wants the EFSA to be responsible for this system whereas the committee feels day-to-day management should be a task for the Commission.
MEPs believe 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.
As to where the Authority should be located, the committee believes this should be in a place with a long-standing tradition in food safety, provide a good scientific infrastructure and facilities in the field of food safety and also be easily accessible as well as guaranteeing it independence.