The Queen's Speech: Food agency to follow talks

Queen's Speech: Public Health
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The Government yesterday pledged to be "open and transparent" over food safety but did not include plans for immediate legislation for a new food standards agency in the Queen's Speech.

Instead, it will "consult widely" on recommendations for the agency to ensure public health in all matters of food policy.

Last week, Professor Philip James of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen presented the Prime Minister with a report commissioned when Tony Blair was leader of the Opposition. It has gone out for consultation with comments re- quested by 20 June.

The proposed food agency would be responsible for developing policy, drafting legislation and educating the public. It would report to Parliament through the Department of Health, taking away the responsibility from the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food. There would be an overarching commission of about 10 members drawn from various backgrounds and an executive arm.

A Cabinet committee chair-ed by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster David Clark has been established to drive the project forward. But until the agency is established, changes will be introduced in MAFF to improve openness on food safety issues. In particular, more information will be made available to consumers.

Legislation will be introduced as soon as possible, but the Government said it was impossible to say whether that would be during this session of Parliament.

The Consumers' Association said consumers must be given a voice at all levels of the proposed Food Standards Agency. "The agency should not just be made a different way; it should be seen to be made a different way," said a spokeswoman.

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