The incoming European health commissioner has set out her priorities including food safety, fraud and antimicrobial resistance.

Stella Kyriakides, candidate for the health post, was questioned by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) this past week.

Kyriakides, from Cyprus, said priorities include the new farm to fork strategy to improve food safety and action against antimicrobial resistance.

During an opening speech, she said changes faced by European societies can only be dealt with through a one health approach.

“European citizens expect the peace of mind that comes with access to health care, safe food to eat and protection against epidemics and diseases. We have some of the world’s highest standards on animal and plant health and the most affordable, accessible and high quality health systems to deliver on these expectations,” she said.

“We need to clamp down on issues such as food fraud that undermine the single market and the trust of our citizens. I want to ensure that we have the right means to keep our citizens healthy.”

MEPs also questioned the Commissioner-designate on issues such as the European Commission repeatedly approving GMO imports and how to protect consumers from food fraud.

Food fraud and safety

In answers to a European Parliament questionnaire, Kyriakides touched on food fraud and safety.

“It is also important to increase our efforts against fraudulent practices so I will be working with the member states to develop a strategy with concrete measures against food fraud, drawing on the work of the European Anti-Fraud Office,” she wrote.

“For chemical risks and food safety, a comprehensive body of sectorial legislation is in place to ensure that the residues of chemicals in food, such as contaminants, pesticides residues and residues of veterinary medicinal products do not constitute a risk for European consumers. Rules concerning food safety apply to all food consumed in the EU, whether or not it is produced in the EU.”

Pascal Canfin, chair of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee (ENVI), gave the green light after the hearing to Kyriakides.

Kyriakides is a member of the Democratic Rally Party in Cyprus, which is a part of the European People’s Party in the European Parliament.

MEP Peter Liese, EPP spokesperson on health, said Kyriakides impressed with detailed knowledge and a vision for the EU’s health policy.

“I have no doubt that Stella Kyriakides will be an excellent health commissioner. She also showed great persuasiveness in topics such as telemedicine, combating antimicrobial resistances and the development of pesticides with fewer risks,” he said.

If confirmed, Kyriakides would take over in the role from Vytenis Andriukaitis on November 1.

Agriculture candidate

The Agriculture and Rural Development Committee (AGRI) also questioned the candidate for the agriculture portfolio, Janusz Wojciechowski, this past week.

In introductory remarks, Wojciechowski said the EU needs a long-term vision for European agriculture.

He called for further support for EU farmers, better environmental protection and for animal-welfare standards to be improved.

MEPs questioned the Commissioner-designate on ways to ensure EU farmers and consumers are better protected in free-trade talks, specifically the ongoing EU-Mercosur negotiations, and asked how foreign countries’ protectionist measures should be handled.

They also discussed strengthening farmers’ position in the food supply chain, and measures to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

The hearing was chaired by Norbert Lins and members from the associated ENVI committee also participated.

At a meeting on Sept. 25, AGRI members held an exchange of views with DG SANTE representatives on follow-up actions after the tainted meat scandal in Brazil, known as operation “Carne Fraca” in March 2017.

The scandal concerned rotten beef from Brazil being fraudulently imported to the EU by several certified Brazilian slaughterhouses. During an audit by the Commission in May 2017, Brazil provided an action plan on how it intended to address recommendations made in the audit report.

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