Speech given by Federal Minister Seehofer before the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety - EU monitor

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Source: Duits voorzitterschap Europese Unie 1e helft 2007 i, published on Tuesday, January 23 2007.

Check Against Delivery

Chairman,

Members of the Committee,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very pleased to be here today to present to you the German Council Presidency's work programme in the field of food safety and consumer health protection.

Federal Minister Schmidt gave her technical view on a number of points yesterday.

First, however, I would like to express my warmest thanks to Mauri PEKKARINEN, my predecessor from Finland, for the excellent work he has done.

Germany has set itself the task of building on the good results achieved by the Finnish Council Presidency.

I also warmly welcome the fact that Germany can regard itself as part of a team over the next 18 months. We and our Portuguese and Slovenian friends will face the forthcoming challenges together.

Germany intends to reinforce and extend the already high level of protection which exists for consumers.

Food safety is of vital importance for the welfare of each and every individual. The European Union has already achieved a great deal towards bringing about a single high Standard. I am thinking for example of the large amount of harmonisation created by the Basis Regulation on Food Law.

Our focus in this area in the coming months will be our work on a raft of legislative proposals:

  • The amendment to the regulations on fortified foods and on nutritional and health-related information;
  • The raft of four regulations and directives on food enzymes, food additives, aromas and a relevant standard approval procedure;
  • The beginning of a review of the provisions on novel foods and novel food ingredients.

The Commission's proposal to amend the regulations on fortified foods and on nutritional and health-related information is currently being discussed in the European Parliament.

There is still need for clarification and coordination regarding some issues. I am thinking of the time periods for the control procedure and of clarification regarding data-protection law.

If all concerned show good-will, it ought to be possible to reach an agreement in these areas. That is at any rate one of our Council Presidency's goals.

It is important both for companies and for consumers that the two new regulations on nutritional and health-related information and on fortified foods are made efficient and at the same time made to meet practical needs.

The German Presidency will continue negotiations on the proposed amendments regarding aromas, enzymes, additives and the standard approval of these. My aim is, if possible, to attain a political agreement with my colleagues by the time the EPPO Council meeting takes place in May 2007; or to at least find consensus on a general direction.

We should not allow ourselves to lose the opportunity to harmonise the area of enzymes for the first time and, to reach a clear, coherent, transparent and simple legal arrangement for enzymes, aromas and additives.

It is also necessary to adapt regulations regarding aromas and additives to the latest scientific and technological developments.

Finally, the area of novel foods and novel food additives also requires revision. We are basically in agreement in this regard. The relevant provisions from 1997 are ready for amendment.

All these reasons make it meaningful to revise these provisions.

Ladies and gentlemen, another goal relates to active consumer protection. This is closely linked to dietary issues.

You discussed this yesterday from the point of view of health with my colleague Ms. Schmidt.

A healthy diet is a question of awareness and upbringing. The course is set at an early stage: at home around the dinner table, at nursery school, and in school.

All of us, including me, find it difficult to change our habits. A particular effort must be made in this area.

More attention must be given to the growing problem of overweight, particularly among children. Future generations are at stake!

What is called for now are preventative measures to counter this.

Promoting a more aware lifestyle with corresponding dietary habits must start at nursery school.

A healthy diet and adequate physical activity must go together.

This is based on Aristotle's insight that: "Life is movement". Wise old sayings are sometimes quite modern.

As part of its Council Presidency, Germany has therefore launched a conference on prevention through physical activity and diet. The Commission is also involved in this, which underlines the European dimension of the problem area.

This conference will bring together health and political experts and multipliers from the now 27 Member States.

The intensive discussions will be based on the Commission's Green Paper on "Promoting Healthy Diets and Physical Activity".

We are all eagerly looking forward to the White Paper on this area, which - I hope - will be presented in the coming months.

Allow me to briefly mention a few more areas which we want to focus on during our Presidency. They will include:

  • Firstly: Increasing transparency and coherence of the procedures for approval of genetically altered organisms by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma.
  • Secondly: Beginning work on the amendment of the Regulation on Regulation on Health Requirements for Animal By-products and the improvement of residue monitoring of veterinary drugs;
  • Thirdly: Expansion and optimisation of the European strategies for controlling animal diseases to reduce the number of animals which must be culled. This remains necessary despite the fact that there was not such a great danger of disease in autumn 2006.

There cannot, however, be any talk of an all-clear. We must continue to keep the threat from the H5N1 virus under close observation. Support must continue for the relevant research.Some measures have been prepared for emergencies; the emergency planning must, however, be continued.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

as you can see, Germany has set itself a number of objectives. Implementing these objectives will require hard work, energy and creativity.

I hope that we will be able to cooperate well with you as Members of the European Parliament in working towards these goals.

I am confident that together we will achieve good results.

This is underlined by the motto that Germany has chosen for its Council Presidency:

Europe- succeeding together!

 

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Date: 25.01.2007