§ The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Richard Ryder)
Expert and comprehensive monitoring work is undertaken by a large range of scientists, academics and others. This surveillance work ensures that, if action is needed to ensure or enhance safety margins, it is taken swiftly and on a firm basis of scientific study and assessment.
§ Mr. Wray
Is the Minister aware that the London Food Commission considers that the Government have acted deplorably by their cover-up of food poisoning? According to its statistics, one in 12,000 eggs is contaminated and since 30 million eggs are distributed every day in Britain, 2,500 eggs per day must be contaminated. Will the Minister take into consideration that the average person eats 151 eggs a year, so one in 79 people in Britain will eat a contaminated egg and the average person will eat two infected eggs in a year—[Interruption.] Does the Minister agree that the Government have failed to face up to the problem and that he should resign?
§ Sir Hal Miller
Will my hon. Friend confirm the stand taken by the Foreign Office arid by the Minister for Trade during last night's debate on the EEC position on hormones in beef, that the Government act only on the basis of scientific evidence, unlike the Labour party spokesman who claimed that we should act without evidence? In that context, how does he rate the evidence from the London Food Commission about a multiplier of 12,000, as we have just heard?
§ Mr. Robert Hicks
Does my hon. Friend agree that it is the obligation of any responsible Government to inform and not to alarm, and that the recent allegations about the desirability of eating certain foodstuffs are misplaced and in many cases irresponsible? Will he respond to those allegations, made without scientific evidence, in a very robust manner?
§ Mr. Martlew
Does the Minister agree that, in 1983, the Government failed to ban the sale of so-called green top mil—untreated milk—whereas they banned it in Scotland? Does he accept that, as a result of that inaction, eight people, including a baby, died in the Calder Valley area of west Yorkshire? Is it not a fact that the Government have waited six years to ban such milk because of pressure from the farming lobby?
§ Mr. Ryder
On 3 February, my right hon. Friend the Minister announced that, under the Food Act 1984, we will consult to see whether a ban should be imposed. The consultation document will be made available early next week.
§ Mr. Charles Wardle
As well as ensuring the highest standards of hygiene in animal husbandry and food processing, has it not become essential to emphasise the importance of hygiene in the preparation of food in the home, in case the normal commonsense standards of preparation do not always prevail?
§ Mr. Geraint Howells
Does the Minister agree that too many contradictory statements about food poisoning have been made by various Government Departments over the past month? Does he further agree that it is time for the Prime Minister to make a statement to the House to allay the fears of consumers and producers alike?
§ Dr. David Clark
If there is no cover-up or complacency about food contamination, will the Minister confirm that the application by the Monsanto drug company for a product licence for bovine somatotropin-produced milk has been rejected on safety grounds, not once, but twice by his own scientifically composed veterinary products committee?
§ Mr. John Marshall
Will my hon. Friend confirm that the standard of hygiene in food factories in this country is second to none? Does he agree that it is high time for those who speak on this matter to show a sense of responsibility rather than to create hysteria?
§ Mr. Ryder
It is precisely because we are not complacent about this issue that the Government have 472 been preparing a major food Bill since October 1987, when my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary issued a press release on the matter. More than 500 organisations have been consulted about what should go into that new food Bill. The new food Bill will be set before Parliament as soon as is practicable. There is no doubt that there are no grounds for complacency, and the Government are showing that to be the case.