Letter: Safe food

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The Independent Online
Sir: As enforcers of food safety legislation, we appreciate the comments in your leading article (23 December) on the need for the Food Safety Agency to enjoy public trust.

That "producer interests" may have played too strong a role in the formulation of food safety policy is a view with which enforcers concur. However, what consumers, food producers and enforcers want most - and quickly - is clear information. Impartial advice and considered actions by government are essential to protect both public health and food businesses.

The recent beef-on-the-bone regulations are a case in point. We made our position clear to the Government that the regulations as they stand are extraordinarily difficult to enforce. What we require is government direction and information to enable local authorities to enforce the regulations more effectively. As health professionals we are fully committed to measures taken to protect the public against BSE. We need guidance to achieve this.

One of the key arguments for the Food Safety Agency is that it would be able to provide this information while responding in a considered way to advice from scientific committees. This would avoid political pressures which can induce either unduly delayed or panicked responses, while the public, enforcers and food producers are supplied with information to minimise risks to public health.

MICHAEL COOKE

Chief Executive

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health

London SE1

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