LOAD OF PURE HOGGWASH; HARD TO SWALLOW: Another Tory Blunder over Food Safety

Article excerpt

Agriculture Minister Douglas Hogg's new agency to monitor the safety of our food has been branded a toothless tiger by consumer groups.

The Record has campaigned vigorously for an

independent food watchdog following the E Coli tragedy.

But the experts say this latest Government move

is not the answer

Smug Douglas Hogg hopes to silence government critics by appointing a new food safety chief.

But the agriculture minister wound up with egg on his face yesterday within hours of announcing the plan.

For the new chief and his panel of so-called expert advisers will be a watchdog without teeth.

And last night furious consumer groups warned: you're fooling no one.

So far, 18 Scots have died in the E Coli tragedy. Dozens more have been left with a painful legacy after suffering kidney failure.

That was only one of a series of food scares, including last week's revelation that some babies fed on Milupa baby milk contracted salmonella.

What we need is a truly independent body, with no allegiance to any political party or big business - real consumer champions.

What we are getting is a fat cat boss and a panel of nobodies with no clout - real consumer chumps.

The soon-to-be-appointed chief will rake in a cool pounds 100,000, paid for out of the public purse.

Tory MP Edwina Currie, who resigned as health minister in 1988 over the salmonella in eggs scandal, was among the first to praise the plan.

Others saw right through it.

Last night, consumer groups slammed it as "totally inadequate".

Jeanette Longfield, of the National Foods Alliance, an independent consumer watchdog, snarled: "Forgive me for being underwhelmed.

"The Government say their primary concern is to protect the consumer. Yet they did not consult us or any other consumer group.

"The whole thing smacks of last-minute lip-service before the election. As far as we can tell, the appointments to this body will be made by the Government. So how can they say it's independent?"

Hapless Hogg has given no indication of how the new group will link in with others already concerned with food safety.

John McFarlane's partner, Mary, 40, suffered kidney failure following the Lanarkshire outbreak and needed kidney dialysis.

John, 50, of Overtown, Wishaw, said: "I don't think it will make a lot of difference. …