A provincial government chief in Parma, Italy, yesterday [Thursday] ruled out the possibility of co-hosting the new European Food Safety Authority with another Member State, notably Finland's Helsinki.

Ever since the new agency was proposed, its location has been the subject of intense political wrangling. France, Finland, Spain and Italy have all applied to host the new Authority, with Italy's Parma and Finland's Helsinki considered the current frontrunners. The new agency has already started business, at its temporary home in Brussels.

The move by Parma came in response to reports in the Finnish press that Italian diplomats had suggested the two contender countries divide the spoils; Parma could carry out food research while Helsinki advised on food crisis.

However, Andrea Borri, leading the campaign for the Parma bid, denied any truth in the speculation, telling Reuters: "The food safety agency should be a whole entity, and Parma is the best qualified city because it has an important food industry as well as scientific and research facilities."

Doubtless, the Finnish candidacy would say the same about Helsinki.