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Caroline Flint: I have had no specific discussions with retailers on country of origin labelling. However, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has regular discussions with the retail sector on a range of issues and these have included country of origin labelling.
The FSA is currently reviewing its best practice guidance on country of origin labelling; it is also likely that the European Commission review of labelling legislation, which is currently under way, will address it. The retail sector is being consulted and is involved in both of these processes.
Mr. Peter Ainsworth: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what measures she is taking to assess whether the genetically modified corn MON 863 is safe for human consumption; and if she will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 26 May 2005]: Genetically-modified crops undergo a rigorous safety evaluation before they are authorised in the European Union for food use for human consumption. The European Food Safety Authority in its safety assessment of MON 863 stated that there were no concerns over the safety of the maize. This was endorsed by the United Kingdom Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes. A decision has not yet been taken on the authorisation of MON 863 maize for food use in the EU.
Caroline Flint: A vote on the authorisation of MON 863 genetically-modified (GM) maize grain, including animal feed but excluding food and cultivation, under the deliberate release directive 2001/18/EC took place on 29 November 2004. The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs received one representation prior to this date. Friends of the Earth Europe wrote to all competent authorities for directive 2001/18/EC on 17 November 2004, urging member states to consider human and animal safety in deciding how to vote on MON 863.
A vote on the authorisation of foods derived from MON 863 GM maize under the novel foods regulation was taken at a regulatory meeting in Brussels on 19 May 2005. The Food Standards Agency did not receive any representations on the effects of MON 863 on human health prior to this date.
Mrs. Spelman: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what estimate the Government have made of the costs to local authorities in England of the introduction and implementation of the proposed Health Improvement and Protection Bill. 
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment she has made of the trends in rates of infection of hepatitis C among injectors in the last three years for which figures are available; and if she will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 6 June 2005]: Information on the prevalence of antibodies to hepatitis C, found in both past and current infection, among current and former injecting drug users in contact with drug agencies and services, may be obtained from the Health Protection Agency's unlinked anonymous prevalence monitoring programme. In addition, the prevalence of antibodies among those who began injecting in the last three years, that is, recent injectors, is also available from this survey. Figures for the last three years are available from the Health Protection Agency report "Shooting Up", October 2004. This is available at: www.hpa.org.uk/infections/topics_az/injectingdrugusers/ShootingUp-2004.pdf.
Among its many conclusions, the report states that the proportion of injecting drug users reporting having a voluntary confidential test for hepatitis C has increased, indicating that efforts to improve access to testing may be working.
[holding answer 6 June 2005]: Before the hepatitis C awareness campaign commenced in June 2004, the Department conducted a market research exercise to determine the level of awareness of hepatitis C, amongst health professionals and the general public.
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This provided the Department with a benchmark from which the effectiveness of the subsequent awareness campaign, for both health professionals and the general public, could later be measured. It is planned to repeat this once the awareness campaign is better established.
In addition, the Department will assess progress on the national outcome indicators as set out in the Department's Hepatitis C Strategy for England, August 2002 and the subsequent "Hepatitis C Action Plan for England, 2004". For example, the increase in the total number of laboratory-confirmed hepatitis C infection reports.
Caroline Flint: The Department has already published information and guidance for health professionals and for the public, highlighting those considered to be at risk of hepatitis C infection and who should consider being tested, or should be offered testing, for hepatitis C infection. This forms part of the hepatitis C awareness campaign and there is currently a continuing programme to raise awareness of hepatitis C among the public and those groups at risk.
Mr. Laxton: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what account has been taken in resource planning of the trends in incidence of hepatitis C, with particular reference to demand for liver transplants. 
Caroline Flint: The Department has commissioned a report from researchers at Southampton Medical School on the likely future demand for liver transplant, which highlighted future pressures not only from hepatitis C but also the rise in obesity, which leads to fatty liver failure.
At present, the transplant programme is entirely constrained by the availability of donor organs. Measures to increase the supply of organs include public awareness for donor programmes, currently about 45 per cent. of next of kin decline permission for organ removal, as well as new surgical techniques (splitting allows one liver to be used for two recipients).
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she has taken to ensure that patients from different areas of the country have equal access to treatments for hepatitis C; and if she will make a statement. 
[holding answer 6 June 2005]: In line with "Shifting the Balance of Power", most national health service funding is now passed on to local NHS organisations so that they can make decisions about local needs and services. There has been substantial increased investment in the NHS, which includes funding for National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)-recommended treatments.
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Decisions on funding of treatment for chronic hepatitis C at the local level are therefore a matter for primary care trusts and their local partners. Strategic health authorities (SHAs) have been asked to ensure that local arrangements are in place to provide appropriate services.
In June 2004, the then Secretary of State, John Reid announced plans to achieve better and equal access to NICE-recommended therapies. As part of these proposals, it is intended that information about NICE-recommended drugs prescribed and dispensed in hospitals will be available to the NHS. This will enable SHAs to compare their own uptake of drugs recommended by NICE with the national distribution. Where uptake locally appears to be below average, SHAs will be expected to investigate and take action to overcome the barriers to implementation. This information will also be available to the Healthcare Commission, which has indicated that assessing the implementation of NICE guidance will be one of their key priorities.
Mr. Burns: To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much was spent on the hepatitis C awareness campaign in the most recent year for which figures are available; how much she has allocated to the campaign for future years; and if she will make a statement. 
Caroline Flint [holding answer 6 June 2005]: The expenditure on the hepatitis C awareness campaign in the financial year 200405 was about £0.7 million. The projected expenditure for the campaign in the financial year 200506 is estimated to be around £1.5 million.
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