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Food Safety

Volume 174: debated on Tuesday 12 June 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what arrangements the Government intend to introduce to strengthen microbiological surveillance of food as recommended in part I of the report of the committee on the microbiological safety of food.

My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and I have decided to establish a national microbiological food surveillance and assessment system. This will be based on a new, independent advisory committee on the microbiological safety of food and a new steering group on the microbiological safety of food. These arrangements will complement those which already exist for labelling, composition and chemical safety of food, which are within the remit of the present food advisory committee and steering group on food surveillance.The new steering group will manage surveillance and research and will present policy conclusions to Ministers. It will consist both of officials and of experts from outside Government. The advisory committee will bring outside expertise to bear on the interpretation of the results of surveillance and on the policy formation process. The committee will have an entirely independent membership and chairman, who will be chosen for their expertise and invited from relevant backgrounds, including consumer interests.These arrangements will give effect to the recommendation of the present committee on the microbiological safety of food that the Government should set up a system of microbiological surveillance and assessment. This committee, under the chairmanship of Sir Mark Richmond, has been invited to complete its work by the end of July. The Government plan to establish the new advisory committee in the autumn. The new steering group will be established as soon as possible before then as it can usefully begin preparatory work before the advisory committee first meets.The membership of the new advisory committee and steering group, and their formal terms of reference, will be announced as soon as possible. The food advisory committee and the steering group on food surveillance will continue to fulfil their present functions but some updating of their terms of reference also is envisaged, to underline the complementary roles of this committee and the new advisory committee.