Food Law News - EU - 2001

European Parliament News Report, 22 November 2001

FOOD LAW / EUROPEAN FOOD AUTHORITY - Strong backing from MEPs for 'European Food Safety Authority'

The Environment Committee yesterday adopted by 40 votes to 1 with no abstentions the draft recommendation for second reading by Philip WHITEHEAD (PES, UK) on the Council common position on the regulation laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety.

Almost half Parliament's amendments from first reading had been taken on board by the Council in its common position and by the Commission in its revised proposal, but outstanding issues for discussion with Council include the composition of the Management Board, democratic accountability for the Authority's bodies (the Management Board and the Executive Director), transparency, the independence of the Authority (in particular how it should be funded) and its location.

There was unanimous support for an amendment retabled from first reading adding the word 'safety' to the name of the new body, which would thus be called the European Food Safety Authority.

The Management Board, says the committee, should be composed of 12 members rather than 16 as proposed by Council. MEPs are also calling for appointments to the Board and the post of Executive Director to be made on merit and to be subject to individual confirmatory hearings by Parliament. Meetings of the Authority should be held in public and its decisions should be published immediately.

Regarding the location of the Authority, an amendment from first reading was retabled calling for it to be, and be seen to be, independent of the Commission and other institutions. It should be located in a place with a longstanding tradition in food safety (to lend it greater credibility), with good scientific infrastructure and facilities as well as good transport connections. Other amendments seek to clarify the Authority's powers.

On the question of food safety procedures, the committee wishes to require food operators, food businesses and animal feed businesses to inform the competent authorities if they have reason to believe a suspect product has been placed on the market.

Finally, it was decided that the new Authority should be funded by the Community.

This draft recommendation is scheduled for plenary debate at the December session in Strasbourg.

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