Select Committee on Food Standards First Report


Submitted by Hugh Oliver-Bellasis

  I have been asked by Dr North to send you the view of an individual about the proposed FSA. Please accept that this is my private view as a farmer/butcher and not the view of anyone else.

  It is difficult to say precisely the impact of the proposed FSA, but I will highlight some areas of concern. The efficacy of the new Agency will hang on the quality of the Chairman, Chief Executive and the Commissioners. If they do not establish their credibility early, then, their impact in a food scare will not make a significant difference to current handling. We all have a part in that to make sure that we support them in their task.

  Thus it is important at this formative stage that no one party feels aggrieved at the strictures being put in place—no mean task! For example the levy—the current proposals are not logical. My small butchers shop to pay the same as a supermarket?

  However, the issue is one of public safety and thus an exchequer expense? The enforcement of the regulations will be done largely at local level; there is currently a wide variation in standards between different EHO's—the ability to ensure common standards is vital. A difficult area is the handling of uncorroborated media reports of a food safety issue. It is important for the Agency to act decisively and on its own to maintain consumer confidence but balancing risk and cost whilst using best available science.

  Thus the Agency's main source of information must come from the advisory committees. Probably one of the most important areas of early work must be the establishment of better research and surveillance mechanisms that really do do the required job. Are current inspection criteria appropriate and capable of delivering the safety required? I suggest not. Some resources must be applied for example to finding different methods of identifying microbiological contamination of food at any stage in the food chain.

  These issues are the responsibility of the whole food chain, not any one sector. We must work in concert, something that has not always been achieved. There is some concern from farmers at the suggestion as yet not clear as to the influence of the Agency at the farm level.

  The farmer already feels highly regulated and in more difficult circumstances that other part of the food chain because of exposure to the elements, e.g., campylobacte carried by birds. There must be recognition at all stages that there is a limit to the sanitisation on farm.

March 1999

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