Sheila Pantry, OBE
Food Safety-Plus is a unique collection of the full text of legislation issued by the European Commission and the United Kingdom concerned with food safety; selected United Kingdon (UK) Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food (MAFF) codes of practice, and other publications and journals - some published jointly with the UK Department of Health; selected parliamentary papers and selections from Hansard; MAFF food surveillance reports; MAFF consumer panel reports; and selected statistics from MAFF.
Recognising the need for such a collection I initiated a project which resulted in Food Safety-Plus compact disc read-only-memory (CD-ROM) which has been in existence just one year, and now benefits an ever increasing subscriber list of food safety information users.
Richard Sinclair, MAFF, Food Safety Directorate, Consumers and Nutrition Policy Division, says
"The wide range of MAFF Food Safety information collected together in Food Safety-Plus gives quick and easy access to the user and through the regular updating of the CD-ROM provides a continuous flow of Government information in this important subject area."
Food Safety-Plus contents includes a Guide to Legislation on the labelling, advertising and composition of food which is updated quarterly by MAFF Consumer Branch with each issue of the data base. Hyperlinks are embedded in this section whereby the full text of UK statutes, regulations and orders, EC Directives and Regulations and UK Codes of Practice which are referred to in the guide can be called up at the press of a button from within the guide.
UK Legislation consists of Acts of Parliament (Statutes) and Regulations (Statutory Instruments) and Orders. The Editor of Food Safety-Plus CD ensures that the latest piece of legislation is added in the regular update and will also ensure that any items which have been superseded are transferred to the Food Safety-Plus Archive database.
Included in Food Safety-Plus are Codes of Practice made under Section 40 of the Food Safety Act 1990 and are guidance and instructions to food authorities on food law enforcement. This section will include in the future voluntary industry codes of practice made under the Food Hygiene Regulations which will be implemented in September 1995.
All significant full text of House of Commons and House of Lords debates and the answers to oral and written questions on food matters, beginning with the 1994/95 Parliamentary session, are included. Also included are the full text of selected reports of the House of Commons Select Committee and selected reports of the House of Lords European Communities Committee. The criterion for inclusion is reports with a food safety or consumer protection emphasis.
The Government has a responsibility to ensure a safe and nutritious food supply is continuously available to enable the public to choose a health and varied diet. Discharge of this responsibility involves a wide range of regulatory and other activities, including food surveillance. The Government's food surveillance programme covers the whole food chain from raw materials through to additives and the processing and subsequent distribution of the food. The major route for publication of scientific data obtained from food chemical surveillance is through the series of Food Surveillance Papers which report on the work being undertaken be the working parties of the Steering Group on Chemical Aspects of Food Surveillance, all appear in Food Safety-Plus. Also included are Information Notes on Food Surveillance and Other Surveillance Reports.
There is also a rapid reporting system for surveillance results in the monthly Food Safety Information Bulletin where brief results are given. Any other reports on surveillance matters which do not fit into the first two categories in this Section are included under Other Surveillance Reports.
Information and Advice
This section covers a wide variety of government publicity and information booklets aimed at the general public and industry, these include: Food Sense Series, Food Sense Facts, Advisory Leaflets.
Among the Research and Development reports are the Microwave Science Reports and other research reports. This section includes a wide variety of research and development reports, including a series on the performance of microwave ovens. These are divided into two series as above. The Unnumbered series in Food Safety-Plus are listed in alphabetical order of the titles of the reports.
MAFF Committees, Agencies and Study Groups
There are a number of independent, expert committees which advise Government on food and food safety matters. Most of these committees publish annual reports which include registers of their members interests. In addition, these committees publish ad hoc reports on specific topics. The reports of these committees and agencies and other ad hoc reports are included in this Section of Food Safety-Plus. These reports are divided by committees etc and then listed alphabetically.
Among the many MAFF committees, agencies and study groups looking at a wide variety of subjects - the following produce reports which are included in Food Safety-Plus CD-ROM.
- Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and processes
- Advisory Committee on Pesticides
- Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food
- Committees on Toxicity, Mutagenicity, Carcinogenicity
- Food Advisory Committee
- MAFF and the Department of Health
- Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee
- Steering Group on the Chemical Aspects of Food Surveillance
- Steering Group on the Microbiological Safety of Food
- Veterinary Medicines Directorate
- Working Group on Pesticides Residues
Maff Consumer Panel
The MAFF Consumer Panel is unique in Government in that it is the only forum where ordinary consumers can talk directly to food Ministers about food matters. Since March 1990 the Panel has met quarterly under the chairmanship of the Food Minister and discussed a wide range of food safety and consumer protection issues. The papers produced to support discussions at Panel meetings and the detailed minutes of these meetings are a valuable source of information on food safety and consumer protection issues.
The publication and distribution of these pages represents a considerable commitment by MAFF towards improving public access to information. Therefore, all three series - Discussion Papers, Information Papers, Minutes of Meetings are included in Food Safety-Plus.
The Food Safety Information Bulletin has been published monthly since May 1990 and is an authoritative source of government information on food safety and consumer protection matters. It includes details of new legislation, new publications, consultation documents issued, consultations completed, reports of meetings of food advisory committees etc and is included in Food Safety-Plus.
Article 14 of the European Commission Directive on the Official Control of Foodstuffs requires Member States to collect and submit statistics of their food law enforcement activities each year, beginning in 1991. This Section includes summary returns from all 589 food enforcement authorities in the United Kingdom, as well as the returns from individual authorities.
The other statistical summaries in this Section provide a valuable historical and comparative overview on the consumption, expenditure, nutritional value and prices of various foodstuffs. Among the statistics are the following.
- UK Food Inspection Statistics 1991-
- National Food Survey: Annual Consumption of Household Food, 1974-
- National Food Survey: Annual Expenditure on Household Food, 1974-
- National Food Survey: Percentage of energy derived from fat, protein and carbohydrate, 1940-
- Retail Price Index: Annual average indices for all items, food and food sub-groups, 1960-
The information base continues to grow to meet the needs of subscribers.
Maggie Hastings, who is the Current Editor of Food Safety-Plus, is always looking for ways of further developments to enhance the coverage of this database are in progress. The following series have recently been added.
- Explanatory Memoranda on European Community Legislation;
- Non statutory codes of practice from MAFF and the Department of Health;
- Survey News: Newsletter of National Diet and Nutrition Survey;
- BSE Enforcement Bulletin;
- EC Directive on Food Hygiene Bulletin
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