Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Memorandum from the Food Standards Agency Wales

  The consultation letter of 19 June from the Head of the Civil Contingencies Secretariat refers. Although the Food Standards Agency was not centrally involved in the policy development process that led to the documents that are now the subject of public consultation, the Agency remains committed to fulfilling its role as a government department, including its role as lead government department for the consequence management of food contamination emergencies. I have been asked to reply to the consultation for the Food Standards Agency, and our comments on issues of detail follow.

  In Chapter 2 of the consultation document, a definition of emergency is proposed. The definition of an emergency as "an event or situation which prevents a serious threat to human welfare", and the definition of human welfare which includes "loss of human life, human illness or injury, disruption of a supply of food" are sufficient to cover those eventualities which the Food Standards Agency would recognise as a food emergency. It is in our view important that "serious" is included in the definition to distinguish food emergencies from the several hundred lesser food incidents that the Agency deals with each year in collaboration with other agencies through existing and effective administrative arrangements.

  Chapter 3 sets out roles and responsibilities at the local level. The Food Standards Agency supports the principle that regulations made under the Bill will build on established partnership working. You will wish to note the provisions that exist within the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 for the authorisation of investigation and enforcement officers, which the Food Standards Agency has operationalised through the issue of authorisations to some 1,600 local authority officers to aid in the management of food incidents at the local level.

  Chapter 3 also describes the concept of "co-operating bodies in both the public and private sectors", which would be "heavily involved in incidents that affect their sector". Defra and the Food Standards Agency have discussed with food industry stakeholders our respective roles in the management of food emergencies. You will wish to consider whether food and animal feed producers, processors, distributors and retailers should be included within this category.

Steve Wearne


5 September 2003

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