Weekly Web Watch: A recipe for improving food safety

After the BSE crisis and the ongoing concerns about GM foods, it is no surprise that public confidence in food safety is at an all time low.

After the BSE crisis and the ongoing concerns about GM foods, it is

no surprise that public confidence in food safety is at an all time


The Consumers’ Association web site, Which?Online, tackles two current

food safety-related issues in the ’latest releases’ section of its


The association responds to the White Paper on Food Safety, the European

Commission’s blueprint for future food legislation, and challenges the

chair of the the Food Standards Agency on UK food safety.

Although the association welcomes the paper as ’long overdue’ it warns

that public health must be the focus of the commission’s attention.

Central to the White Paper are proposals for an independent European

Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the Consumers’ Association sets out

what it sees as potential problems if the authority is not given enough


One of its main concerns is that the EFSA will only be given

responsibility for assessing and communicating food risks, but none for

deciding how the risks should be managed.

The association claims that it should also be able to exert influence at

all stages of the food chain and have responsibility for food safety and

standards including labelling if it is to be effective in any way.

In another press release the CA expresses disappointment that the

Government’s original plans to appoint a consumer chair of the Food

Standards Agency were not carried through. Sheila McKechnie, director of

the Consumers’ Association calls for the Government to fill the

remaining places on the board with people who are credible to


Visitors to the site can go to the on-line forums sections which include

Content Forums - where visitors can discuss Which on-line reports, ask

questions about the findings and share knowledge and experience with

other Which?Online users. The Armadillo forum invites visitors to ’give

free rein to your thoughts, views or opinions on any subject you


Many ordinary internet users see on-line forums as the easiest way to

find the information they need on a particular subject, so some visitors

might be put off by discovering that the Which? Online Forums are only

available to subscribers. This would have been an ideal place to allow

’free’ debate of the issues covered in the latest releases.

As an organisation with plenty of influence the Consumers’ Association

is viewed by members of the public as standing up for the rights of

those people who don’t have a voice - much in the same way as the BBC’s

Watchdog programme does. So to exclude some people from sections of the

site because they may not want to sign up to Which? is rather


Organisation: The Consumers’ Association

Issue: Food standards in the UK and Europe

At: www.which.net

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