HL Deb 02 November 1989 vol 512 cc425-6WA
Lord Beaverbrook

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are in a position to make a further announcement on the Food Safety Directorate within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

The Food Safety Directorate which we are establishing in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will bring together under the Food Minister, Mr. David Maclean MP, all the main aspects of food safety work for which the Ministry is responsible. At the same time, we are setting up a consumer panel chaired by the Food Minister to keep under review from a consumers' viewpoint the implementation of policies on food safety and consumer protection. The Food Safety Directorate, together with new arrangements for bringing to bear more directly and systematically the views of consumer organisations, will strengthen our department's organisation for dealing with food safety issues.

The Food Safety Directorate will consist of four main groups each headed by a Grade 3 (Under-Secretary). The Food Safety Group will have overall responsibility for policy on food safety and quality, including composition, labelling, additives, contaminants and new production processes. The Food Science Group, headed by the Chief Scientist (Food) and staffed at senior levels by scientists, will provide the scientific back-up on food safety issues. This group includes the new Food Science Laboratory at Norwich, which will carry out necessary analytical and research work in support of food policy additional to that commissioned from other laboratories. The third group will deal with pesticide safety approvals, veterinary medicines and biotechnology issues. Finally, the fourth group will handle meat hygiene, animal health and the related public health issues, and animal welfare. The initial complement of the Food Directorate is 695. The resources devoted to this work have been increased and will be kept under review.

The consumer panel will provide a forum in which the Food Minister will be able to hear directly from representatives of consumers their views on food safety and consumer protection issues. The consumer panel will include representatives nominated by each of the main consumer bodies. The panel will provide a more formal and systematic means of maintaining contact between my department and the consumer organisations. I shall make an announcement shortly on the membership and terms of reference of the consumer panel.

These new arrangements do not diminish in any way the continuing need for advice from the existing expert and independent committees, namely the Food Advisory Committee, the Advisory Committee on Pesticides and the Veterinary Products Committee, as well as the Department of Health Committees on Medical Aspects of Food, Toxicity, Carcinogenicity and Mutagenicity and the Joint MAFF/DOH Committee on Novel Foods and Processes. The Food Safety Directorate will work closely with the State Veterinary Service and will be advised on public health questions by the Government's Chief Medical Officer.

These changes will focus the Ministry's resources more effectively on to maintaining the safety and quality of the nation's food supplies. The Food Safety Directorate will be responsible for keeping the public informed on food safety matters.