Bill tabled for FDA-style National Food Authority

MKs sign bill, but Health Ministry opposes, says it is a “hasty piece of legislation full of holes and unclear question marks.”

By
November 24, 2010 05:12
2 minute read.
The Health Ministry in Jerusalem

Health Ministry 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

A private member’s bill to establish a National Food Authority to replace the Health Ministry’s under-financed and undermanned Food Service was tabled in the Knesset on Tuesday. Knesset members from all parties signed the bill, which was presented by Knesset Labor, Social Affairs and Health Committee chairman MK Haim Katz.

Katz noted that supervision failures by the ministry, including the import of soy-based Remedia infant formula without a vital B vitamin that led to several deaths and disability in numerous children who fed solely on it, indicated the need for a powerful Food Authority. The bill was formulated by a team from the voluntary organization Imun Hatzibur (Public Trust), whose director is Galit Avishai, and food experts. The authority would be similar to the US Food and Drug Administration and other such regulators in the Western world.

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The Health Ministry, however, opposed the bill, saying that it was a “hasty piece of legislation full of holes and unclear question marks.” No further explanation was provided by the ministry, which would lose a significant amount of responsibility and power with the establishment of such an authority.

Avishai said: “Harm from food consumption is a routine matter. For the first time, a Knesset committee has unanimously declared: ‘No more!’ This is an historic move. I will continue to push for the legislation that is so critical for public health.”

Instead of a number of ministries being responsible for supervision of the production, import and marketing of food, a central and independent authority would protect the rights of the public, according to the bill. In the past, said Katz, various authorities tried to pass the buck and say that certain matters were not their responsibility. The authority, if established, would set up a system to protect the data collected by all the regulatory bodies and labs, Katz added.

It would function with complete transparency, immediately public the results of tests and have the authority to apply administrative sanctions and take actions to deter companies and suppliers from violating the law, said Katz. Food safety would be ensured from production through processing, storing and packaging, as well as advertising and marketing, according to the bill. In addition, money and manpower would be allocated to carry out all these roles.

The bill says that the chairman of the authority would be appointed by the health minister and approved by the cabinet for a five-year term. The government would also appoint an 11-member authority council that would include representatives from the Finance, Justice, Health, Environmental Protection, Interior and Industry, Trade and Employment ministries, as well as food producers and importers and public representatives.

Katz said such an authority would “make order out of the current chaos and prevent the failures of the future. An independent Food Authority is necessary in view of reality. My committee will use all its power to promote the bill.”


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