Europe’s black sheep

Greece is not the only EU member state to be subjected to inspections and recommendations. Even its more «developed» counterparts have been just as strictly reprimanded on several occasions. Following a number of crises in the European food industry, the EU has embarked on a campaign to ensure quality along the entire food chain by imposing regulations, inspections and setting up organizations that often have to achieve a balance between the conflicting interests of member states. In a report drawn up in 2001 on the basis of inspections carried out in France, there was reference to several problems in monitoring cattle farms, in which France is one of the leaders in the field. In Belgium, inspectors asked for more data regarding the fight against brucellosis. In Germany, there are no files on inspections, while in Italy, the central authority cannot fully monitor regional services, something that Greece has also frequently been accused of. On January 21 this year, the European Food Authority was launched amid much fanfare. It is based in Brussels for the time being, although many capitals are competing for the honor of hosting the new authority, which is independent and will have bureaus in each member state. It will act as an advisory body and report to the European Commission. The fact that it does not have the authority to make decisions, but simply to advise, has led to doubts about its ability to resolve problems. The authority was set up on the basis of the White Paper on Food Safety, a text drawn up after lengthy consultations and published on January 12, 2000. It sets out the EU’s plans to draw up rules and step up inspections in order to safeguard consumers’ health. So the spotlight has now been focused on livestock diseases that can be transmitted to humans, as well as diseases that have been around for some time, such as foot-and-mouth. The next step is to staff the new authority with experts who, it is hoped, will save Europe from further scandals in its food industry. Until then, this work will continue to be carried out by the EU’s many scientific committees. «This death is a tragedy and our hearts go with his family,» Cmdr. Hal Pittman, spokesman for the US Atlantic Fleet’s Naval Air Force, said in a statement.

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