Vets give thumbs-up to food agency plans

11 July 1997

Vets give thumbs-up to food agency plans

VETS have welcomed government plans for an independent food standards agency but have told MAFF they have reservations over its make-up, function and likely impact.

In its written response the British Veterinary Association said Prof James report on the proposed agency, set out "a bold and imaginative strategy for food standards in the UK".

Consumer confidence had been dented and its return would be brought about not by individual measures by individual sectors of the food industry, but by an integrated approach. And the BVA supported the intention to create a stable to table independent agency.

"There is an opportunity here to make things better," it said. "But there is also a danger that despite bold principles the action flowing from them will be diluted and costly.

"A new organisation without a fresh approach to food handling will not necessarily solve the current problems," it added.

Key factors in the return of public trust, identified by the BVA, were confidence in:

&#8226 A foolproof system of identification and traceability.

&#8226 Consumer protection in abattoirs and processing plants.

&#8226 A transparent and enforceable system of checks and certification.

Herd health surveillance programmes or quality assurance schemes were likely to provide the framework to implement such control measures, and play a big part in restoring consumer confidence, if they were not simply marketing tools for commercial interests, the BVA warned.

"That will simply lead to consumer confusion, not consumer confidence," it said.

Food safety standards also needed to be set wherever there was a risk of infection. But such standards were useless without proper enforcement. Adequate cash, equipment and manpower resources were essential.

In a letter to farm minister Jack Cunningham, summarising the BVAs submission, BVA president Karl Linklater said the agencys proposed remit was too broad, and nutrition should be excluded from its terms of reference.

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