Food Law News - UK - 1998

14 May 1998: ADMINISTRATION - Food Safety Minister - “Getting on with the job”

MAFF Press Release (199/98), 14 May 1998

Food Safety Minister - “Getting on with the job”

Radical changes have been made to transform the way Government handles food safety issues, Food Safety Minister Jeff Rooker said today. The public is being given more and better information. Consumer protection, openness, transparency and accountability have been the key priorities. These principles will be enshrined in the future work of a new Food Standards Agency.

Speaking at the Agra-Europe Conference in London today, Mr Rooker said:
"We have thrown open the doors to the way Government handles food policy. The Government will publish all product brand names tested in chemical surveillance programmes, pesticide and veterinary residues surveys. The individual results of thousands of food tests will be made public for all to see. MAFF is now publishing, every month, the individual Hygiene Assessment System (HAS) scores for every licensed abattoir and cutting plant in the United Kingdom. Poor performers face tough action by meat inspectors to improve.

"The independent advisory committees that advise Ministers will operate more openly to publish agendas, papers and minutes of their meetings. Some have even held open meetings, where the public and interested observers have been able to attend. All main food related independent advisory committees will have lay members, to represent the public interest and put forward the consumer viewpoint."

Jeff Rooker also highlighted responsibilites held by the food industry. He said:
"Every person working in the food industry has a personal responsibility to make sure the food they produce is safe to eat. It does not matter whether they work at the Hilton or in the greasy spoon cafe down the road. The public wants all foods to be clearly and honestly labelled. It is a fundamental right of consumers to know what they are buying. That is the food industry's responsibility.

"All foods that contain genetically modified ingredients should be labelled. The UK is leading discussions in Europe to make this happen. I am pleased to say that British food manufacturers have already agreed to do this voluntarily. Animal feed manufacturers and farmers are part of the food chain. The Government wants animal feed ingredients to be clearly and honestly labelled as well. A new independent Advisory Committee on Animal Feedingstuffs will soon be providing advice on these issues.

"The UK Government is working at the heart of Europe to make sure that informed consumer choice and food safety are fundamental principles underlying all European food laws. British consumers should be confident of the quality and safety of the food they eat - wherever it is grown or manufactured.

Finally, Mr Rooker spoke of progress on setting up the Food Standards Agency. He said:
“Work on setting up the Agency is progressing fast. We hope to have a draft bill ready by the summer. The bill will be published for a further round of public consultation before it comes before Parliament. Let me say now, that I will welcome your views. The setting up of the Food Standards Agency represents a fundamental change in the way this country deals with food safety policy. We should, and must, debate the legislation governing the work of the Agency - both in the public arena and in Parliament."

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