Dorrell says base food safety on good science
HEALTH secretary, Stephen Dorrell, whose announcements on Mar 20 last year threw the beef industry into chaos, managed to convince most of the farming audience at the Oxford Farming Conference debate that decisions on food safety should be taken only on the basis of good science.
The audience of almost 450 heard Mr Dorrell insist that in the modern food market there were three main players – regulators, producers and consumers. The relationship between producers and consumers was vital and he criticised the farming industry for putting too much weight on its relationship with government and not enough into its relationship with consumers.
It was not governments job to decide which products should be available to consumers, but, as the regulator, the government had to define the acceptable standards of food safety. "We need to determine what are the minimum standards we should accept and that is where science comes in," he said.
Mr Dorrell admitted that he had been careless in his choice of words when he had said last year that "beef in an absolute sense is safe". The facts were that no activity came without some risk, so no one could ever say that something was absolutely safe.
"Science cant offer guarantees of absolute safety but it can offer an informed assessment of risk." Good science was based on evidence and facts. That should be what regulators used to distinguish between legal and illegal in terms of food safety standards, he said. *