News

EU takes action over food safety

BMJ 1997; 315 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.315.7120.1397k (Published 29 November 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;315:1397
  1. Rory Watson
  1. Brussels

    The European Commission is planning to recruit nearly 100 extra staff to its consumer health and protection department and is exploring the possibility of financial compensation for the families of victims of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD).

    Both initiatives are a direct response to the public outcry over the bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) crisis and a response to political pressure from the European parliament, which last week completed an investigation into the measures taken by the European Union to prevent any repetition of the disease.

    The action successfully headed off the possibility of a censure vote by MEPs, which would have forced the commision's president, Jacques Santer, and his 19 colleagues to resign.

    Recognising the importance of the political and health issues which had been raised by the BSE crisis, Mr Santer has reformed how the commission handles food safety issues. The nine scientific committees which advise the commission on food safety have been reorganised and have been transferred from the responsibility of the agriculture commissioner, Franz Fischler, to the responsibility of the consumer affairs commissioner, Emma Bonino. The union's small force of inspectors at its food and veterinary agency outside Dublin is being increased.

    The measures were welcomed by Reimer Böge, a German Christian Democrat MEP and farmer, who had taken the lead in monitoring the commission's handling of the BSE crisis, although he, and many other Euro MPs, were openly critical of the behaviour of several governments in the European Union.

    As the new controls are gradually put in place, the commission is expected to table proposals “to provide rapidly and in a non-bureaucratic way” financial compensation for the families of CJD victims.

    Next year the commission will organise a conference on its new safety measures with the European parliament.

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