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April 25, 2005

IRELAND: Over regulation puts innovation at risk, conference told

Too much regulation could stifle innovation in the food industry, a conference in Dublin was told last week.

Too much regulation could stifle innovation in the food industry, a conference in Dublin was told last week.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the Irish food and drink industry is how to innovate to provide better consumer choice, despite operating in one of the strictest regulatory environments in the world, “Rosemary Garth, director of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation’s Food and Drink Industry Ireland told its annual conference.

“Unless the regulatory burden is looked at from a cost as well as a compliance perspective, potential for innovation will be lost. Innovation, however, is crucial to the future of the Irish food and drink industry,” she said.

“Regulation in the food and drink sector costs several hundred millions of euros each year,” she said. “While there is no doubt that regulation has an important role, we need to ask ourselves if it is always appropriate, or whether it results in confusing the consumer?”

There is a better way. This involves government and industry working together in a meaningful way,” she said. “Labelling is an example of where the consumer requires clear and unambiguous information – this is a challenge that both the industry and regulators must address together. We already have examples of how such partnership is working well in the areas of salt reduction and folic acid.”

The problem of consumer confusion was confirmed by Sylvie Rowe of the US International Food Information Council who said “US consumers remain interested in the good news about the health benefits of foods but they are often confused by conflicting ‘expert’ opinions in the media and evolving government and scientific dietary advice.”

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