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FOOD SAFETY TO GET A POWERFUL NEW CHAMPION

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Radical changes to create an over-arching independent body to protect consumer interests in every area of food safe...
Radical changes to create an over-arching independent body to protect consumer interests in every area of food safety have been proposed by the government.

A White Paper: The Food Standards Agency: A Force For Change sets out plans for a new body to:

- monitor the safety and standards of all food for human consumption

- commission scientific research and develop new policies

- co-ordinate and monitor the standards of food law enforcement

- advise the public, Ministers and the food industry

The paper was launched by agriculture minister Jack Cunningham. He said:

'We have proposed fundamental changes to food safety in this country. The proposals envisage an Agency with a strong independent role and powers.

'The new agency will always place protection of public health at the top of its priorities; be able to change government policies if needed; be free to make its advice and findings public; and have the power to oversee and influence the work of other organisations.

'It will be independent of government, the food industry or any other producer interests, and play a major part in building consumer confidence in food safety.

Health secretary Frank Dobson added:

'The agency is a major step forward for public health. It means that, for the first time Britain will have an organisation whose only task is to set high food standards. This will make food safer, labelling better, and gives people more confidence in the food they eat.

'The agency, which will report to the department of health will take a strategic view of food safety and give open, independent advice to health and other ministers.'

The proposals in the White Paper have been developed jointly by the ministry of agriculture fisheries and food, department of health, cabinet office, Scottish office, Welsh office and Northern Ireland

office, in consultation with other Whitehall departments.

The agency will:

- formulate policy

- draft secondary legislation

- negotiate on Britain's behalf in Europe and internationally

- provide advice, guidance and information

- carry out research and surveillance

- set standards and monitor enforcement

- issue licences, approvals and authorisations

Helping and advising consumers will be a key function of the agency. It will develop new ways to encourage two-way communication between the public and policy formers. The agency will also work with other government departments, independent agencies and organisations to educate and inform the public about food safety, nutrition and diet.

The government is keen to hear the views of the public, consumer organisations, food industry, scientists, doctors, other public

health bodies, related agencies and other stakeholders. Public consultation ends on 16 March 1998. Addresses where replies should

be sent are given in the White Paper, and in a special explanatory leaflet prepared for the public.

Following this consultation, a draft Bill will be prepared setting out the detailed legislation needed to form the agency. The public will have another chance to give the government their views when the draft Bill is published for consultation.

Notes

1. The White Paper: The Food Standards Agency: A Force For Change is available from The Stationery Office priced£10.50, Ref: CM 3830.

2. Public can get copies of the consumer leaflet and a factsheet on the White Paper from the MAFF Consumer Helpline on 0345 573012

3. The consumer leaflet is being distributed to major supermarkets and shops by the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

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