Recruitment is over for the executive director of the new European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) with the announcement yesterday that Geoffrey Podger has had the all clear from the European Parliament's Environment Committee - the final hurdle in the recruitment process.
Podger, currently the chief executive of the UK Food Standards Agency, will take up the position on 1 February 2003. Stuart Slorach, who chairs the food authority's Board, said: "We are very happy that we have the right person for the job. He has the knowledge and experience that we need, having led the development of a national food agency. This means that we can now make real progress on the path to full operational status."
"This will include setting in place the final cornerstones of the EFSA - the Advisory Forum and the Scientific Committee and Panels, and the recruitment of the main body of staff."
A testimony to bureaucracy at its finest, the selection procedure for Podger involved the European Commission, the Parliament and the management board and has taken several months to complete.
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.
According to the EFSA the new executive director believes that food cannot be regarded as just another policy area, 'and sees it as a major aspect of our approach to life itself.'
"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," said Geoffrey Podger.
As the leader of our spanking new edifice to food safety, and with national expectations running high, he certainly has plenty to get his teeth into. The first step will be establishing the Advisory Forum - comprised of representatives of those Member State organisations with a similar remit to the EFSA. The final building block will be the Scientific Committee and Panels, which will carry out the core scientific work.