Sunday, December 8, 2013


What should be the role of industry in shaping food safety policies that affect the consumers? This issue has recently cropped up in Europe where industry representatives have been included in the the highest policy making body which many feel may vitiate its decisions not in the interest of the consumers. This issue can cause dilemma among policy makers in many countries because the powerful industry lobbies have a way of influencing their decisions through money power and political muscle. A classical example is the FDA of USA which finds itself in a helpless situation to stand up against the power of the food industry lobby and therefore many decisions are taken or not taken in time or never taken at all, as per the diktats of the industry. The refusal of FDA not to insist on compulsory labeling of GMO foods is purely based on industry interests whereas the consumer has a fundamental right to know what is offered in the market through the label declaration! Here is a take on the European situation which may have far reaching implications. 

"The commission's justification for these nominations is its interpretation of EFSA's founding regulation 178/2002, which states that four of the 14 board members "shall have a background in organisations representing consumers and other interests in the food chain".  But nowhere is it mentioned that the food industry should be involved, in fact quite the contrary: EFSA's 2011 independence rules stipulate that "persons employed by industry shall not be allowed to become members of EFSA's scientific committee, scientific panels and working groups."  If industry employees are not allowed among EFSA's scientists, why should they be allowed on EFSA's board, where the minimum they get is a say in important internal decisions, excellent access to key EU decision-makers and insights into how to influence the agency's risk assessment procedures for their benefit?  While DG SANCO's decision does not breach any rule strictly speaking, such a decision is politically incomprehensible". 

Looking from the industry angle why should they allow policy decisions concerning their working by a body where they do not have a representative to speak their mind? It is of course a legitimate concern but it it necessary that they should have formal representation in such bodies? Why not they insist on being invited to air their views without the voting power? Generally bodies like EFSA have sub-groups consisting of representatives of all interests and decisions taken on extensive consultations and interactions are reflected in the recommendations of such specialized sub-groups. Why not EFSA also follow the same mechanism and as the decision making is the sole prerogative of the Board nothing untoward can happen adversely affecting the interests of any one.


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