The European Parliament voted 491-5 to support proposals for the creation of the European Food Authority (EFA) yesterday, bringing the institution one step closer in a bid to remedy what British deputy Phillip Whitehead called “the neglect of decades” within EU food policy.

The assembly demanded 180 amendments to the proposal however, which formed part of a wider overhaul of food regulation among EU member countries. Until now, food policy has been made on the advice of committees, made up of personnel from national administrations. Such committees have been discredited for their failure to handle crises such as BSE correctly.

Reporting for the Parliament’s committee on public health and consumer policy, Whitehead noted that by comparison, the EFA would be created as a near-independent source of scientific guidance for the policy makers, working with national food agencies and “clear, limited and targeted ambitions.”

Furthermore, the EFA will not be restricted to concentrating on food safety, a point emphasised by the recent reluctance of the Consumer Affairs Commissioner David Byrne to accept a unanimous vote by MEPs to add the term “Safety” to the institution’s name.

The proposals for the new authority have been framed by EC document COM [2000] 716: “Draft Regulation laying down the General Principles of Food Law, establishing the European Food Authority, and laying down Procedures in Matters of Food.” 

According to the European Union and World Regulation Review, Byrne “could accept half of the amendments [proposed yesterday].” Those he could not accept were apparently either “too detailed or went beyond the scope of the legislation at issue.”

If the proposals are agreed upon swiftly, the new EFA could become operational in the early part of next year. Continued direct negotiations between the EU member states and ministers could delay the process by up to six months however.

The location of the proposed EFA has still not been finalised, although bids have been accepted from Barcelona, Helsinki, Parma, Lille and Luxemburg. Byrne recently commented that the successful candidate “should be somewhere with rapid access to the centre, a social infrastructure to accommodate the necessary staff and provide for close contact between relevant authorities.”