Press Release

Comments by Micheál Martin T.D., Minister for Health and Children to the FSAI Food Safety Conference 2004

I would like to welcome you all here today to historic Dublin Castle. This conference is the centrepiece of the food safety programme of Ireland´s Presidency of the European Union. Yesterday, Dublin Castle was the venue for the first meeting of the European Food Safety Authority Management Board to be held outside of Brussels and earlier this month we were delighted to host a meeting of the EFSA Advisory Forum in Dublin.

The Food Safety programme has been a particularly busy one for the Irish presidency and I am pleased that much progress is being made. The Health and Nutrition Claims proposal as well as the proposal on Food Contact Materials have advanced significantly in Council. The Irish Presidency also had the task of introducing the Food Fortification proposal to Council earlier this week and we look forward to making progress on this dossier. Work is of course continuing on the finalisation of the Hygiene Package.

The timing of this conference has been particularly fortunate. On Tuesday the European Parliament adopted a compromise on the proposed regulation on official controls on food and feed. This compromise was reached only after a great deal of work being done at Council and after protracted negotiations between Council and the European Parliament. This positive and co-operative approach taken by Parliament and in particular, by its rapporteur, Ms Marit Paulsen, should ensure that the proposal will be agreed at First Reading. Of course the Irish Presidency cannot claim all the credit for securing this agreement and in this regard I would particularly like to thank the Greek and Italian Presidencies for their enormous contribution to this achievement. As a result of the commitment and hard work of everyone involved the regulation should enter into force in January 2006.

The Regulation will improve our ability to manage the food and feed chain thus ensuring safer food for Europe’s consumers. Existing systems of controls will be rationalised whilst the European Commission will have an enhanced role in ensuring high standards of food safety throughout the EU. I am very pleased to note that the Regulation will provide a framework to assist developing countries to meet EU import requirements.

Of course Member States will continue to be responsible for the enforcement of food and feed controls. The new regulation will harmonise the approach to the design and development of control systems in all Member States. The Regulation seeks to ensure parity of outcome without being over prescriptive. It will give Member States the flexibility necessary to design the most appropriate control systems without compromising on food safety.

The Regulation comes at a crucial time in the development of the EU. It will impact equally on us all and will result in greater interdependence between Member States within the enlarged Union and, in this context, I am particularly pleased that enlargement of the EU will take place during the Irish Presidency. For this reason confidence in each other’s food control systems will be crucial and it is crucially important that we prepare together for the new arrangements and, in the spirit of partnership, that we develop models of Best Practice covering all aspects of food control. I believe that we have an ideal opportunity today to start this process. I urge delegates to engage in this process and so facilitate the sharing of information and the building of networks.

I would like to welcome all the guest speakers to the conference and congratulate everyone involved in its organisation. I hope you all have a very productive and successful visit to Dublin – not neglecting, of course, the social aspect.