24 May 1996

Food regulation in UK blamed

THE real cause of the BSE crisis and the collapse in consumer confidence is the UKs system of food regulation, says the Consumers Association.

It wants an independent food agency to be created to help establish a more consumer-centred app-roach to food policy. "This is the only way to restore genuine consumer trust," the association says.

In a recent survey, the CA found that 82% of the 2000 consumers questioned agreed there should be an independent food agency. The survey is reported in the CAs policy review magazine, and the authors insist there is no explicit UK national food policy.

Under the current confusing structure, they add, it is unclear which government department is responsible for specific areas and that can hinder access to important information. The survey found that more than 70% of respondents believed the government had withheld information on the risks associated with BSE.

"The BSE saga raises serious questions about the effectiveness of government departments, the role of government advisory committees and public access to information.

"The concerns of consumers result from the detailed failings of the current system. When there is a conflict between the interests of the food and farming industry and those of the consumer, it is the consumer who loses," the report says.

Farm Minister, Douglas Hogg, responded to the report on Tuesday. "I do not agree with the criticism and I do not agree with the proposal," he said. &#42