Food safety agency delayed

November 28, 1997

The white paper on the promised food standards agency has been delayed as arguments over its nutritional role escalate.

According to a Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food insider, the final draft of the paper, which was initially timetabled for October or November, was ready more than a week ago. But pressure from the food industry, which does not want the agency to give nutritional advice, and the alleged intervention by Peter Mandelson, minister without portfolio, are said to have delayed publication.

According to MAFF, whose ministers have said they want nutrition included in the agency's remit, there is now no date for the white paper.

A spokesman for the Department of Health stressed the need to get the paper right and rejected accusations of "Machiavellian tactics". A spokesman for Mr Mandelson denied that he had come under any food industry pressure, though Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat food spokesman, tabled parliamentary questions this week asking why Mr Mandelson was getting involved in food safety issues.

Philip James, director of the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen and author of the report on the Food Standards Agency for the Labour party before the election, included nutrition in his vision for the agency.

Nutrition is not the only issue under debate. There is also a question mark over setting up a food standards agency laboratory and whether the agency should have powers over farm issues, such as the safety of pesticides, which do not always affect human health.

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