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Wednesday, January 14, 1998 Published at 18:33 GMT


Food Standards Agency for UK
image: [ Agency aims to boost consumer confidence after recent food scares ]
Agency aims to boost consumer confidence after recent food scares

The Agriculture Minister, Jack Cunningham, has unveiled the Government's plans for a new Food Standards Agency to tackle food safety and boost consumer confidence in the industry.

[ image: Jack Cunningham: Agency will have wide-ranging powers]
Jack Cunningham: Agency will have wide-ranging powers
Mr Cunningham told MPs in the House of Commons that the agency would be "a powerful new body, able to publish its advice to ministers, free of vested interests and able to act clearly and decisively at all stages of the food chain."

Excerpt from Jack Cunningham's statement in the House of Commons (3'20")
He said 12 independent commissioners with a wide range of expertise, backed by advisory committees and civil servants, would direct it.

The agency would have powers across the food chain from animal foodstuffs, meat and milk hygiene, the micro-biological safety of food, food additives and chemical contamination.

Will the agency calm Britain's food fears? Comment in Talking Point

It would also assess new food applications, including genetically modified food and provide information and advice on food allergies.

The agency would be able to:

  • Set standards on food safety
  • Advise the public, food industry and Government
  • Commission scientific research and development policies
  • Co-ordinate food law enforcement

Mr Cunningham said the new organisation would not tell people what to eat but would ensure they had the information they needed to make choices. He said it would also help business by having the credibility to reassure consumers about food when necessary.

It would adopt the best available authoritative scientific advice and act in a way that was "open, consultative and transparent" and would be fully accountable to the public and to Parliament. It would report to the Department of Health.

Independent advisory committees are proposed for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

[ image: The agency will have powers to advise people on healthy eating]
The agency will have powers to advise people on healthy eating
Funding for the agency, estimated to cost more than £100m-a-year would come primarily from a new licensing scheme for food businesses.

The Food and Drink Federation, which represents the £50bn a year industry, has warned that any extra costs will amount to a "tax on food by the back door" and lead to price rises falling on consumers.

Plans for the agency are based on proposals made by Professor Philip James in a preliminary report in April 1997.

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Internet Links

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