Consultative Council Meeting Minutes - 21st September 2010

Date & Venue: 21st September 2010 at 11:00am in the FSAI, Abbey Court, Lower Abbey St, Dublin 1

Members Present

Ms Veronica Campbell (Chair)
Ms Anne Marie Crowley
Mr Bill Paterson
Mr Muiris Kennedy
Ms Anne Quirke
Ms Breda Raggett
Ms Marie Brady
Mr Kevin Bracken
Mr Dermott Jewell
Mr Martin Mullane
Dr J Gerard Barry
Mr Eoin McBennett
Ms Margaret Leahy
Dr Fred Davidson
Mr Peter Marshall
Mr Bernard Murphy

Apologies for Absence

Ms Darina Allen
Ms Fiona Lalor
Mr Tim O’Brien
Mr Derek Deane
Mr Eddie Byrne
Ms Sara Morris
Mr Henry O’Neill

In Attendance

Mr Raymond Ellard - FSAI
Dr Iona Pratt - FSAI
Mr John Matthews - FSAI
Ms Eileen Lippert - FSAI

1. Agree Agenda

Following some amendments to the running order of the draft agenda was agreed.

2. Minutes and Matters Arising

The minutes of the previous meeting of the FSCC were agreed without amendment. There were no matters arising that were not agenda items.

3. Risk Assessment of Aspartame – Dr Iona Pratt, FSAI

At a previous meeting members of the Council expressed concern about aspartame, a low-calorie, intense sweetener which is approximately 200 times sweeter than sugar and which is in wide use. Consequently, Dr Iona Pratt, Consultant Toxicologist with the FSAI and chair of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Expert Group which recently completed a review on aspartame, was invited to discuss the matter with the Council.

Dr Pratt informed the Council that while there are several sweeteners on the market, aspartame is still the biggest seller and continues to attract some controversy.

She advised that the sweetener and its breakdown products have been extensively investigated for more than 20 years. Aspartame was found to be safe for human consumption and approved for use under EU food additive law. The conclusion about its safety was reconfirmed in a review carried out by the EU Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) in 2002. EFSA adopted an opinion in 2006 reconfirming the safety of aspartame.

Dr Pratt spoke of the publication in 2007 by the European Ramazzini Foundation in Bologna, Italy, of its findings in a study on the carcinogenicity of aspartame in rats. However later in 2009 EFSA, taking into consideration data submitted by the Ramazzini Foundation, concluded that on the basis of all the evidence currently available, there is no indication of any genotoxic or carcinogenic potential of aspartame and no reason to revise the previously established Acceptable Daily Intake for aspartame of 40 mg/kg body weight.
Nevertheless, Dr Pratt acknowledged that concern continued despite the risk assessments. EFSA therefore held a series of meetings of national experts with relevant scientific knowledge in relation to aspartame. The experts, including Dr Pratt herself, looked at all the published literature and other information made available. Their report concluded that the previous Opinions of EFSA and the SCF do not need to be reconsidered,
Dr Pratt said that research is now turning from the safety of aspartame to the possibility that some individuals may be sensitive to the substance. Supported by the Food Standards Agency in the UK, a study is being conducted by the University of Hull to see whether certain people are sensitive to aspartame; the study is designed to examine any immediate reactions and not the effects of long term exposure
Noted: The Chair thanked Dr Pratt for her informative contribution.

4. Animal Feed Controls – Mr John Matthews, FSAI

With the FSAI preparing for the eventuality of having to deal with the control of animal feed, John Matthews presented on the topic. He spoke about the various types of animal feeds used in Ireland and also gave details of food animal diets. He outlined in a schematic diagram, the compound feed industry in Ireland in 2008 and also elaborated on how feeds are administered to food animals in Ireland. He expanded on how contaminated feed was responsible for the recent dioxin incident in Ireland and how the prevalence of BSE in the 1990 could be linked to feed. The hazards related the storage of feed were also covered along with the process flow of animal feed from raw material to sale to the final user.
Mr Matthews illustrated the complex nature of animal feed. Additional information is available in the Community Register of Feed Additives – 91st edition.
Action: EL to circulate the presentation to the members.

Noted: Much discussion took place after the presentation, including questions about the number of people who work in controlling the animal feed sector. It was also confirmed that farms that mix their own feeds must have a licence to do so and these farms are inspected regularly. The Council members agreed that a risk assessment of animal feed from a national perspective should be carried out.

5. Chair’s Report from the FSAI Board Meeting

The Chair attended the last meeting of the Board, which took place on 16 September, where she gave an outline of all topics discussed by the FSCC. This was her second time to attend a Board meeting and she informed the Board members that the Council was dealing with the topics issues which had been referred to it by the Board. She also highlighted the need for increased communication between the Board and the Council. She also recommended that the FSCC carry out a survey at the beginning and end of its term in order to judge if there has been any change in stakeholder attitudes to food safety. The Board thanked her and the Council for its work to date. A joint Board/Council meeting is to be arranged before the end of the year.

Action: A small working group should be established to deal with the carry-over issues which would assist with the handover to the new Council. EL to email the members about this and look for volunteers.

6. Update from FSAI

The Salmonella in duck eggs outbreak is still current and there have been 25 cases to date. RE elaborated on initiatives FSAI and other agencies have taken to deal with the outbreak. The survey on bottled water is on-going.

7. Open Meeting Sub-committee

The Sub-committee met prior to the FSCC meeting and they discussed the theme of the meeting. The themes that they are proposing to the FSCC are: ‘Changing eating habits in a recession’ and the new topic of water was also suggested. Members were in favour of both of these themes.
Agreed/Action: The Sub-committee to discuss how to deal with these subjects and was aspect to take. The Sub-committee will meet to take this project forward.

8. Other Business

AMC, BP, RE, DGD and DG met after the last meeting to discuss the issue of frequency of inspections. Recommendations were made to the FSAI executive and these will be reflected in the forthcoming revision of the FSAI Guidance Note on the matter.
Action: RE to circulate the draft Guidance note to the above mentioned members.

9. Date and Theme of Next Meeting

The next meeting was scheduled for 23 November at 11:00 in the FSAI and the main topic for discussion will be priority areas to support small businesses to comply with food legislation.

The chair thanked everyone for their contribution and the meeting concluded.

Last reviewed: 20/1/2011

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