Head of food safety authority appointed

Following a selection procedure which involved the Commission the Parliament and the Management Board, Mr Podger has now been formally appointed to the position of Executive Director. The job is one of the most influential and prestigious in food safety and the competition for the position attracted many senior figures in the field. As soon as he takes up the position, the work of making the Authority fully operational can proceed at full speed.

Mr Podger has been Chief Executive of the UK Food Standards Agency since it was set up in 2000. Prior to this, he worked for the UK Department of Health for 18 years from 1982. Before taking up responsibilities in the food area, he was Under-Secretary for Health Promotion. He was also Head of the Combined Joint Food Safety and Standards Group of the Department of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food from its inception in 1997.

He has considerable experience in the management of matters involving the interface of science and policy and has strongly promoted transparency. He believes that openness enables the management of difficult food safety issues without giving rise to public over-reaction.

He believes that food cannot be regarded as just another policy area, and sees it as a major aspect of our approach to life itself. Thus, he says: ‘The subject has to be handled with a consequential level of human understanding and sensitivity. The EU needs to be able to bring together its major scientific expertise in the food area and to deploy their collective wisdom; both in handling internal and wider problems. Much will be gained, for the European public, by hammering out expert views on controversial issues which represent the best scientific consensus and do not hide uncertainties.’

The appointment of Mr Podger opens the way to the establishment of the remaining cornerstones of the Authority in early 2003. The first will be the Advisory Forum; which will comprise representatives of those Member State organisations with a similar remit to the Authority. The final building block will be the Scientific Committee and Panels, which will carry out the core scientific work. The appointment also allows the Authority to proceed with the recruitment of its core staff.