Food businesses can only enjoy the custom and loyalty of consumers if people have confidence in the safety and quality of their products. Britain's most successful food companies thrive on the quality of their brand image - especially their commitment towards protecting consumers. Dr Cunningham was speaking at a conference on 'Food Safety and Business Competitiveness' in Carlisle.
"Putting the customer first has always been a golden rule of business. It is particularly true in the food industry. Most well known food companies in the world - household names - are rigorous about ensuring the safety of their products. Why? Because they know that customer loyalty and confidence in their products can only be gained through a tough, rigorous approach to safety and quality.
"The new Food Standards Agency will raise standards, raise consumer confidence, and raise your profits. It is an Agency that will be good for business. We would be missing the boat if we didn't capitalise on the White Paper to take a good long look at the way food safety work and food law enforcement is funded in this country.
"There is a strong case for the food industry to bear some of the costs of improving food safety and standards: after all, it stands to benefit from the improved public confidence which the Agency is likely to bring."
The White Paper on the new Food Standards Agency invites views on systems of raising funds including by registering or licensing food businesses. It makes clear that there will be detailed discussion of matters such as the basis for calculating charges, including the need to take account of the size of the business, before any scheme is finalised. Dr Cunningham has encouraged the industry to respond to proposals in the White Paper with ideas and suggestions before the close of consultation on 16 March 1998.