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Food Research

Volume 175: debated on Thursday 28 June 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much he plans to spend from his Department's funds on food research in the current year.

My Department plans to spend more than £20 million on food research in 1990–91, of which more than £15 million is earmarked for safety, hygiene, applied nutrition and consumer protection.

Can my right hon. Friend assure the House that that considerable sum is being invested in food research which responds to public concern about food safety and which also highlights the high standards of our food processors and packagers? Will he give examples of the different forms of research being carried out?

As we are concerned with more than 800 different projects at the moment, my hon. Friend will understand if I do not go through them all in detail. We are trying not only to respond to the public disquiet about this and that, but to ensure that there is no public disquiet about things which might arise. When I visited the food research laboratories in Norwich recently, I was interested to see a wide range of research, all of which will help to ensure that British food continues to be the safest in the world.

Is the Minister aware that on the east coast, and especially on the east coast of Scotland, sprats are caught by Scandinavian fishermen, taken to Scandinavia for canning and brought back here labelled as sardines? Surely the British consumer has the right to know what the product is and where it comes from. Will the Minister have a word with his counterparts in the Scandinavian countries to ensure that at least the labelling is correct so that consumers know what they are buying?

I am not sure that in this case the labelling would have a direct effect on the safety of the sprats or sardines when eaten, but if there is a problem in terms of misleading the consumer I shall be happy to take it up at once because it is a fundamental principle of the Ministry that we ensure that the consumer has full information so that he can make his own decisions and not have them forced on him by others who think that they know best.

Will my right hon. Friend tell the House and many worried people in Britain whether any of the money that he proposes to spend will go to Professor Lacey and his research?

When we choose the recipients of money for research, we do so on the advice of their peers—their scientific equals. One of the difficulties with some people who seek to do research is that they are not over-eager to provide information about their research to their scientific equals or to the committees set up to judge them.