In welcoming the publication of the Report the Prime Minister said:
The public has the right to expect the very highest standards of food safety. Confidence in the safety of the food we eat has been severely undermined in recent years and I am determined to rebuild that trust.
I thank Professor James for his details and considered report. It provides an excellent foundation upon which the Government can build. It confirms my belief that we will benefit from a powerful Food Standards Agency. We need to create a structure that is open and transparent, and which acts - and is seen to act - in the interests of consumers.
I shall be establishing a new Ministerial Group on Food Safety under the chairmanship of David Clark to take forward these proposals. This will include Ministers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the Department of Health, the Cabinet Office, the Scottish Office, the Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office. The Cabinet Office will be consulting widely in the weeks to come.
In the interim Dr Jack Cunningham, the Minister for Agriculture has already acted to ensure greater openness in the working practices of MAFF and more responsiveness to the needs of the public.
The report recommends theat the new Food Standards Agency should be a non-Departmental public body with executive powers and a structure that is based loosely on the proven effectiveness and resultant public trust in the Health and Safety Executive.
The following is the opening of the Executive Summary from the report:
The request on March 7th 1997 to propose the function and structure of a Food Standards Agency (FSA) led to an analysis of the basis of current problems, an assessment of overseas initiatives and UK proposals, and to widespread consultation throughout the UK. This report should be viewed as an interim consultative document which highlights the remit and the processes needed for establishing the Agency with the required urgency. One fundamental aim should be to re-establish within 3 years public confidence in the national mechanisms for handling problems concerning food. To have a major impact on food-borne infections and other aspects of food safety will take longer. The formation of the Agency will provide an opportunity for the UK to propose new arrangements for handling food issues in the European Union
For further information, see separate page on Food Standards Agency.