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Unilever chairman analyses the path forward for Europe

24-Jan-2002

The chairman of Anglo-Dutch food company Unilever has called on the new European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to take the lead in the matter of food safety and to simplify the licensing of novel foods, in order to encourage innovation.

Speaking at a national forum in London last week Niall FitzGerald emphasised the need for the new EFSA.

 

"I am convinced that we need a fresh approach across Europe to food safety, to farming, and to innovation in food. We must embrace change, not fear it. That will require courage from our politicians and better engagement with consumers."

 

He believes that the new EFSA could learn from the UK's Food Standards Agency with its commitment to openness and willingness to work with all food stakeholders.

 

A further key point raised during his speech was the risk, in his eyes, of the inflexible use of the "precautionary principle" in food regulation and of its misuse, the result of which would be new foods having to satisfy criteria that do not apply in the existing market.

 

FitzGerald also argued that a badly structured European regulatory regime will harm investment - resulting in less innovation, fewer jobs and fewer benefits for the citizens of Europe.

 

Putting the case for CAP reform, he maintained that a reduction in subsidies, while creating short-term hurt, is in the long-term interest of European farming and all associated with it. Equally, he stressed, CAP reform can stimulate the economies of the developing world by Europe opening its markets to the produce of developing countries.

 

If we in Europe can respond to the many challenges - only some of which I have set out - if we have the courage to embrace change not fear it then we have the potential, not only to improve our own farming and food industries, but to have a major positive impact across the world.

 

Mr.FitzGerald closed his speech with rousing words. " If we in Europe can respond to the many challenges - only some of which I have set out - if we have the courage to embrace change not fear it then we have the potential, not only to improve our own farming and food industries, but to have a major positive impact across the world."