EU agency to police food quality


A NEW agency which will police food safety throughout the EU will begin operating next month. Its job is to ensure better protection of consumers, particularly when food scares arise, the European Commission has confirmed.

Many of the agency's staff, probably more than 200, will be based beside Teagasc's research centre in Grange, Co Meath.

The Commission's veterinary inspectorate has been increased from 43 to 202, most of whom will staff a product quality control and audit office.

The BSE crisis prompted the introduction of a restructuring of the responsibilities with a view to increasing the effectiveness of the Commission's role.

The agency has been set up under the Commissioner responsible for consumer affairs, Ms Emma Bonino, and has been granted substantially increased powers. It has been welcomed by the new Food Safety Board of Ireland as it seemed to be modelled on similar Irish efforts to improve safety, according to its consultant administrator, Mr John Kerrigan.

"We welcome what is being done. The agency will ensure a logical link with what's happening in Ireland and at European level," he said.

The chairman of the Consumer Association of Ireland, Mr Peter Dargan, said the initiative showed the EU was less under the influence of powerful agricultural lobbies. It represented the separation of agriculture from food.

He added: "This will be good for farmers because every time a food scare comes up people don't believe what they're being told."