Select Committee on Food Standards First Report


MEMORANDUM 8

Submitted by The Cancer Research Campaign

1. INTRODUCTION—THE CANCER RESEARCH CAMPAIGN

  1.1 The Campaign is currently celebrating its 75th Anniversary. We are the largest single funder of cancer research in Britain's universities and medical schools, awarding on average grants of £50 million each year. And we lead Europe in anti-cancer drug development. Our aim is to attack and defeat the disease of cancer in all its forms to investigate its causes, distribution, pathology and treatments and to promote its cure.

  1.2 Advances made in medical research have greatly contributed to the enhancement of life prospects for those who have the disease. Some cancers are now curable, and more people with cancer are living for longer. While we shall continuously strive to develop cures, we also fund research into how some cancers can be prevented. Some cancers appear to have a genetic link, others we know are triggered by certain factors, e.g., lung cancer and smoking. Lifestyle and diet are other influences which need to be taken into account.

2. THE FOOD STANDARDS COMMITTEE

  2.1 The Cancer Research Campaign welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Food Standards Committee, regarding the establishment of a Foods Standard Agency. We believe we are qualified to do so as food, and its quality have a major role to play in health.

  2.2 We applaud what we see as a common sense move to concentrate the responsibilities of MAFF and the Department of Health regarding food safety and hygiene under one consumer-focused body. We believe MAFF has the difficult job of trying to represent the interests of both consumers and producers.

3. THE CASE FOR POSITIVE LABELLING OF HEALTHY FOODS

  3.1 The old adage "you are what you eat", has been amply backed by research. We firmly believe a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle makes for a healthier person.

  3.2 Recent studies from The Cancer Research Campaign and other research bodies, has demonstrated that certain forms of cancer may be prevented by certain foodstuffs. The Cancer Research Campaign, for example, has evidence that those with diets rich in fibre, be it cereals, fruit and vegetables (fresh or frozen) have a lower tendency to develop bowel cancer (and incidentally, are less prone to heart disease too).

  3.3 We wish to advocate a system of food labelling which would inform consumers of the positive health benefits of eating certain foods—e.g., eating fibre may help prevent bowel cancer—and we believe that this is a function that could fall within the competence of a Food Standards Agency, which is also tasked with providing information on the nutritional content of individual foods.

  3.4 The Agency also has a duty to provide information and advice to the general public, for example by:

    —  Running information campaigns on issues of current interest and importance.

    —  Publishing scientific data arising from research or surveillance and advising on its interpretation.

    —  Producing leaflets on food hygiene, labelling, etc.

    —  Producing educational materials.

  3.4 We believe that health labelling of food sits squarely with the role advocated for the Agency and would have a greater, more direct impact on the consumer, especially if taken in conjunction with health information campaigns.

4. CONCLUSION

  4.1 The Cancer Research Campaign would be happy to supply any research relevant to this proposal to the Food Standards Committee. We have worked closely with MAFF and the Department of Health in the past and will continue to do so in the future. And, if invited, we would be happy to submit evidence orally to the Committee.

March 1999


 
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Prepared 12 April 1999