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For Immediate
June 1, 2001

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  Transatlantic Consumer Coalition Supports Expanded WHO Role in International Food Trade

     A coalition of consumer groups on both sides of the Atlantic is applauding efforts by the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) to take greater steps to protect consumers from food safety hazards created by the growth of the international food trade.

     In a letter to WHO Director General Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, members of the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), an organization of consumer groups in the United States and the European Union, called on the WHO to promptly expand its International Health Regulations to cover transmission of food borne illnesses and to give the WHO a greater role in enforcing those rules. The WHO’s International Health Regulations require governments to notify each other of communicable diseases. The WHO’s World Health Assembly recently approved steps to expand the regulations to cover acute food safety risks — such as mad cow disease, food borne pathogens like E. coli 0157:H7, and chemical contaminants — by restricting the movement of goods in international trade.

     “Contaminants and pathogens that were once confined to one region of the world can now travel around the globe on jet planes in a matter of hours,” said Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and U.S. co-chair of the TACD’s food working group. “We applaud the WHO’s efforts, but urge that greater resources be devoted to this area. The growth of the international food trade calls for the development of new international agreements to ensure food safety and the WHO must play a major role in this area.”

     “The current regulatory framework for the international food trade established by the World Trade Organization is insufficient to protect the public. We are pleased that the WHO is taking on this issue and working to establish additional rules to ensure the public health,” Silverglade said.