§ Mr. Ashley
To ask the Secretary of State for Health what responsibility his Department has for ensuring that foodstuffs are safe for human consumption and carry no risk of food poisoning; in what way this responsibility is carried out; how many and what type of staff are required; what is the annual cost to his Department; and what has been the change in the number of staff and the annual cost to his Department in each of the last five years.
§ Mr. Kenneth Clarke
[holding answer 15 December 1988] : My Department has joint responsibility with the 262W Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for ensuring that foodstuffs are wholesome and fit for human consumption. We exercise this responsibility through legislation and the issue of guidance. Under the Food Act 1984, the food trade and industry has primary responsibility for ensuring that its products are safe.
Local authorities are primarily responsible for enforcing this legislation. Food safety issues which have more than a local impact will usually involve my Department in liaison with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, the food industry, the public health laboratory service and other relevant interests. My Department also acts as the point of contact with the European Community on food safety issues related to food imported into or exported from the United Kingdom.
In addition, my Department provides medical and other professional advice directly or through providing support to various expert committees in areas such as microbiology, toxicity and nutrition. Further detailed information could be provided only at disproportionate cost.