Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 24 Apr 1974

Vol. 272 No. 1

Food Standards Bill, 1974: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

This Bill is designed primarily to enable this country to accept, where appropriate, international food standards drawn up by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. It will also provide an appropriate means of implementing EEC directives in the food sector and, where occasion requires, of prescribing mandatory national food standards for certain products.

I should like to begin by saying something about the Codex Alimentarius Commission and its work. This body was established in 1962, under the auspices of the United Nations, to draw up international food standards with the objectives of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. Over 100 countries, including all the members of the EEC, are members of the commission. The codex ailmentarius will eventually include standards for all the principal foods, whether processed or raw, and will also provide for related matters such as food hygiene, food additives, pesticide residues and the labelling and presentation of food. Already more than 60 standards covering a wide range of foods have been adopted by the commission as recommended international standards and submitted to member Governments for acceptance. Over 100 more are at various stages of drafting.

These standards are drawn up according to a 10-step procedure and Governments are given the opportunity of making comments and proposing amendments at several stages. With this in view a national codex committee was established in 1969 to advise the Government on all matters relating to food standards drawn up by the commission. The committee includes representatives of Government Departments, the State Laboratory, the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards, An Foras Talúntais, consumer interests and the various sectors of the food industry, under the chairmanship of an officer of my Department. The committee are operating very effectively and devote particular care to standards at an advanced stage of preparation. A number of standards adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission incorporate amendments proposed by the Irish delegation on the advice of the national codex committee. I should remark at this stage that the committee saw, and agreed with, the draft heads of this Bill before their submission to the Government.

Standards adopted by the commission are circulated to Governments for acceptance. A Government which accepts a standard in full undertakes that—subject to normal economic controls—a product which conforms to the standard will be permitted to be distributed freely within its territory under the name and description laid down in the standard and that products not complying with the standard will not be permitted to be so distributed. There is also provision for limited forms of acceptance.

The Government regard it as essential that Ireland should be in a position to accept and implement codex standards where appropriate, but no statutory framework for such acceptance at present exists. There is world-wide interest in the commission's work and the non-acceptance by this country of standards which had gained wide acceptance internationally could suggest, however erroneously, that our food products were inferior to those of other countries. This could have a detrimental effect on our export trade. In addition, we might come to be regarded internationally as a convenient dumping-ground for sub-standard products, a development which could have serious consequences for our trade and for public health.

We and other EEC member nations are adopting a co-ordinated approach to the acceptance of these standards. The Community itself is engaged in framing standards for food products and is concerned to see that these coincide as far as possible with the worldwide codex standards which will govern trade with third countries. I, therefore, envisage that any EEC directives in the food sector will be implemented by regulations under this Act, so that the whole body of our food standards laws will be found within the one framework. Such regulations will, of course, fall to be reviewed in the normal way by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Secondary Legislation of the European Communities.

Having outlined the background, I now turn to the text of the Bill. Deputies will observe that this is basically an enabling measure which would allow any one of three Ministers to prescribe food standards and to provide for their enforcement. The reason for the involvement of three Ministers is that some commodities fall within the competence of my Department and others within that of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, while the Minister for Health is concerned with some special aspects, and especially with food hygiene and food additives.

Section 1 contains definitions and does not call for any special comment. Section 2 provides power for the making of food standards regulations by the Minister concerned. It also sets out the principal matters which will usually be provided for in a standard and the restrictions on the manufacture, distribution and sale of food which regulations may contain. It further provides for consultation with interested organisations before regulations are made.

Section 3 provides for notice in a national daily newspaper not less than two months before the making of any regulations. Section 4, which is similar to a provision of the Health Act, 1947, would empower the Ministers by regulation, as appropriate, to bring food supplied in various classes of establishments—schools, hospitals, hotels and so forth—within the scope of the legislation.

Section 5 deals with the enforcement of regulations made under section 2. It lists the categories of officers who may be empowered to enforce the regulations and sets out the powers they may be given, including powers of entry on and inspection of premises, sampling and seizure of food, and so on. It provides for the analysis of samples taken and for the certificate resulting from such analysis being evidence in court proceedings under the Act. An important provision designed to protect confidential trade information is contained in subsection (4).

Section 6 provides for the disposal of food seized by officers enforcing the regulations. It is relevant to remark here that by no means all food which infringes regulations under the Act is likely to be seized. The more usual course for minor infringements of the regulations would be a prosecution for an offence under subsection (5) of section 2. In cases where food is seized it may be destroyed only if the owner agrees or if the District Court so orders. There is provision for compensation where the court is not satisfied that the food should have been seized and where the owner has suffered expense or loss as a result of the seizure.

Section 7 introduces certain presumptions designed to simplify legal proceedings arising out of the regulations. It also provides a defence for a person who has in good faith dealt in sub-standard food if he can show that he had a warranty from some other person that the food complied with the regulations.

This warranty may take various forms, such as a statement in an invoice or on the label of a carton of food. I have felt it necessary to limit this defence in the case of imported food so that the importer becomes liable for the manufacturer's warranty. This is to ensure that where an offence is committed there will be a defendant within the jurisdiction. If sub-standard food could be imported under the warranty of a person outside the jurisdiction, home manufacturers would obviously be at a disadvantage.

The remaining sections, dealing with offences, penalties, consultation, annulling of regulations, expenses and short title are in standard form and do not call for any special comment. I shall be glad to hear any comments that Deputies may wish to offer and I shall consider on Committee Stage any amendments they may have to put forward.

I welcome the introduction of the Second Stage of this Bill by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. If it could be termed a fair criticism by me, I would have welcomed it 12 months or so ago had it been introduced in the House then. I do not think it necessary for me to comment at any length on the codex alimentarius or, indeed, the national codex committee. Everybody who has read the Bill and who will have had an opportunity now of reading the Minister's introductory statement will see that this piece of legislation we are enacting is very necessary. If this country did not agree with the standards of the commission which are accepted internationally, as the Minister very rightly pointed out the opinion could be wrongly held that our food products were inferior to those of other countries. If this opinion were held certainly it would have a bad effect on our export trade. This is something against which we must safeguard at all times.

With regard to the text of the Bill itself, section 1 does not call for any real comment. In referring to section 2 the Minister said that provisions were made for regulations governing composition and quality of food. But no mention is made of nutritional value. Composition and quality may or may not include nutritional value. By that I mean that a food label could show a list of ingredients with no bearing on nutritional value whatsoever. I feel provision should be made in the Bill for nutritional value, especially as this is becoming a fairly hot topic amongst consumers in other countries. I am sure it will be a matter of time only before Irish housewives scan labels for a declaration of nutritional value. I would ask the Minister to take a look at this question between now and Committee Stage. I feel there is something to be said for its strengthening this legislation.

Section 3—again according to the Minister's speech—provides for notice in the national daily newspaper not less than two months before the making of any regulations. With regard to the phrase "not less than" could the Minister say that two months' notice would be given or, perhaps, in cases where it might be necessary, that four months or, indeed, six months notice be given? Perhaps the Minister would consider that point. Two months might not be sufficient. As I have said, four months, or, indeed, six months' notice would be required for specific reasons.

In his brief the Minister said:

Section 4, which is similar to a provision of the Health Act, 1947, would empower the Ministers by regulation, as appropriate, to bring food supplied in various classes of establishments—schools, hospitals, hotels and so forth—within the scope of the legislation.

On reading section 4 of the Bill, as circulated, I must confess I found it confusing and a bit hazy. I should like to know why hospitals, schools and so on are singled out for special regulation while there is no mention of other eating places, such as factory canteens and the like. Is this whole section aimed at tightening up institutional feeding? Perhaps the Minister could tell us what type of regulations will be made under this section? Food in the true sense is not sold in many schools. For example, in boarding schools it is part of the overall package. Food, education, heating, shelter are all covered by a blanket fee. Perhaps the Minister, in replying—or anybody else offering in this debate—could enlarge on that particular matter.

Again, the Minister said:

Section 7 introduces certain presumptions designed to simplify legal proceedings arising out of the regulations. It also provides a defence for a person who has in good faith dealt in sub-standard food if he can show that he had a warranty from some other person that the food complied with the regulations.

I am glad it is felt necessary to limit this defence in the case of imported food so that the importer is liable for the warranty. I think the Minister is very wise in having somebody within the jurisdiction of the courts answerable to the courts for any defect there might be on labels or anything else that might be wrong.

Those are a few points I wanted to make and I should be grateful if the Minister would enlarge on them when replying. I would hope that we might have an amendment on Committee Stage on the question of the two months' period if possible to have that extended to four months. It may or may not be necessary for the time being.

The Bill itself is a good one. In fairness, everything that should be done to protect the consumer, the general public and particularly the housewife from much of the present day high pressure sales gimmickry with which, unfortunately, we have to live must be done. Anything that can be done to outline, in very plain language and in great detail, the content of whatever a person is buying, whatever is wrapped up or packaged with regard to quality and quantity is very desirable. We have to be very careful, indeed, particularly in the food industry, to do everything possible to protect the consumer.

There has been tremendous development in food technology in recent years. This very big industry, always seeking to put before the general public a multiplicity of foods, whether in jars, tins or containers of one kind or another, is serving an extremely useful purpose. It enables those who live in urban areas particularly to enjoy a variety of foods. The food industry, with its great complexity; with its research and experiments of various kinds inevitably brings problems in both advantages and disadvantages.

I shall leave the subject of chemical substances added to food to subsequent speakers but additives are something about which we have to be very careful. The nutritive values of foods should be clearly stated in terms of protein, fat content, calorific value, mineral value and carbohydrate content. Consumers are now anxious to know the various values of the foods they eat. Jams are high in calorific value, though they may contain small quantities of sulphur dioxide depending on the method of fruit preservation used. Cheese is a very valuable food. It has a high calorific value as well as a protein value. Tomatoes contain numerous vitamins and minerals. Consumers like to know the various values of the foods they eat so that they may enjoy a more balanced diet. Frozen peas have a higher vitamin and protein content than canned peas. In the United States it is common practice now to serve vitamin fortified foods.

We are all anxious to ensure that the consumer is protected to the fullest extent possible; it is a difficult job in this modern technological age, but everything possible must be done to provide full consumer protection.

I intervene in this debate for a number of reasons; in terms of my own interest and feelings—less important—and as one of the other Ministers of the three involved in the application of this legislation, if it passes, as it seems from the expression of welcome it has had from the Opposition, it will pass without too much contention, I have an involvement. I must also declare an interest both as a veterinary surgeon and as someone with a training in physiology and biochemistry because, of course, some of the maintenance of food standards in regard to meat and livestock in the past has been the responsibility of my profession and I am proud of my profession's role in this area. Also, I admit to a very considerable interest of a personal kind in the matter of food quality.

To begin with, we have, I think, to recognise that with every passing year the need for legislation of this type increases precisely because the complexity of the food industry increases.

At a time when all of the food consumed in a particular home was produced within a few miles of that home, whether it was meat or whether it was vegetables, and there was no elaborate processing, apart from smoking, salting or pickling there were no problems. There was no deep-freeze. There was no method of prolonged storage. We were not getting things from the opposite ends of the world. It was not a question of colour. It was not a question of shelf life. There was not an immensely complex marketing pool which now embraces the whole world.

At that particular time the need for protection was much less because the commercial pressures producing inferior quality were much less but, as the food processing industry becomes world-wide, the need for increasing consumer protection legislation becomes every day a greater need. We ought to pause for a moment in thinking of legislation of this kind to ponder on just how world-wide the food industry is. There is not a continent whose food we do not expect routinely to get, even in relatively small areas of habitation, even in villages, and there is hardly a country whose specialist products we do not expect to get; from the original pickling, salting and smoking, the range of mechanisms for preservation which now exist is enormous and increasing all the time even with radio-active treated food possibly becoming an article of consumption. Add that to freeze drying, deep freezing, bottling, canning and the whole gamut of preservation techniques. Then we have the phenomenon that foods are not sold now entirely as a pure piece of meat, or a pure piece of wheat, or a pure piece of cabbage but as mixtures of all these things in very complex packs, even in packs that consist of whole meal with bits of this and that, from the beginning through the different courses to the end, sold as a single industrial product. So we have this ever-continuing complexity and we have extremely great commercial pressures of all kinds.

I want to say a word now about the question of additives because to some extent, I regret to say—I will amplify this—one sees a systematic debasing of natural human taste in food by commercial pressures. I will give some examples. It is well that the public should be aware of this process and know what is going on. In the different categories of things which may contaminate food there is a category of things which are deliberately added somewhere along the production chain in order to increase the commercial attractiveness of the product. Many sorts of colouring would fall into this category because the public think, if the thing is pure white, or bright green, or bright red, it is somehow better and we need education, which we have in the basic sciences, to convince people that this sort of prettying-up is very often not alone not producing an improvement but is actually producing a disimprovement. There are, of course, careful regulations in regard to what colours may be used.

Deputy Collins gave the example of sulphur-dioxide which is very widely used, not as a colourant but as a preservative. At certain levels it is quite all right but at certain levels it is not all right. Some of the nitrates used in meat preservation can be changed into nitrites et cetera. There are all sorts of complex chemical changes taking place in food and things that start off perfectly safe may end up as being unsafe. Things like sulphur-dioxide which at certain levels are perfectly safe, correct and normal to use, at other levels may be unsafe.

Indeed, the unscrupulous manufacturers may use either preservatives or anti-oxygenant or colours or various products which have not been checked out for their long term effects. In the past and this was world-wide, we biochemists and psychologists, and people concerned with the actual chemical workings of the body, have been much too light-hearted. They have carried out tests on a few hundred mice for a year or two years but we do not live for a year or two years. Things are going into children which may have effects 50, 60 or 70 years later. We have been much too optimistic in the past on the basis of short-term tests and small numbers of animals and a vastly greater amount of caution is used on the part of those carrying out biological tests than there was a decade ago. They are much more reluctant to say with certainty that such-and-such a thing is perfectly safe.

We have had all sorts of examples of things that turned out not to be safe. I am not trying to spread alarm because the standards, world-wide, are rising continuously. The extent of the danger is being recognised ever more and a Bill of this kind is an important step although it is by no means the end of the road in the question of food quality control. There have been mistakes, there have been errors of judgment and worse than that. We have also got the circumstances not just of the food industry becoming more complex but the effect of the increasing complexity of the economy of the whole world has a bearing on food in ways that do not seem obvious to us.

The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and Deputy Collins, mentioned the question of farm chemicals for treating seeds, killing weeds and killing insects. The farm chemical industry is now a huge industry with immense research but all of these things can get into foodstuffs and can do damage. Again, in the fairly recent past, we have been too lighthearted as to what was safe. Thalidomide is a long way from food and I do not wish to spread alarm. I recognise that there are ever more rigorous standards and it is right that this should be so, because the mistake of thalidomide was with a drug for human use and it is a mistake that will echo down the decades.

As a biochemist and one who has been involved in organising trials for veterinary products I am aware that in the past there has been the attitude: "Sure it is not for human beings; it is for animals, or for plants or for killing insects so it is not quite so dangerous." We have this process of accumulation. We have seen people recently killed in Japan from mercury poisoning, mercury coming from the environment. We see the pollution of the oceans with all sorts of heavy metals. We see the pollution of bits of the environment with radioactive products as a result of nuclear tests.

We have had the situation that a person putting pesticide on a field feels that by the time the plants grow, and by the time all these processes go on, it will be so diluted that it could not possibly do any harm. There is the same argument in regard to radio-active products and heavy metals, like mercury, which can be poisonous. What people forget is that living systems, and what we eat are living systems—we have not got to the stage of having synthetic foods yet—concentrate the products. There are plants, shellfish and fish of all kinds. We have a food chain and we may see enormous concentrations in certain areas. Fish in US rivers were producing high levels of some of the weed killers. The water which flowed from the weed killer-treated land or the insecticide-treated land into the river had a very low level but the fish gathered this stuff up and the people who ate the fish received quite a blast out of it.

One has to remember the whole complexity of the economy, whether it is industry or agriculture, the whole barrage of the powers in the chemical industry, and they are very beneficial powers because we could not carry the world's population at its present level without these products, and I am not decrying them, but because they exist and are used so widely we have to have an ever-growing public awareness. We have to have the sort of regulations produced by the codex alimentarius and the sort of standards of which this Bill will permit the introduction.

We have also to make reference to the business of advertising in the food area. I regret to say that we have a small number of people promoting food by saying things that are not true. While more and more of our young people will have sufficient scientific knowledge to know that they are not true and, therefore, the advertising, far from causing people to buy the product will turn them off it, we still have a large number of people who can be hoodwinked.

As a veterinarian and a dairy farmer I am disposed to be pro-butter and anti-margarine. That is my prejudice and I am declaring it. Margarine is produced by very big combines which are very rich while butter is produced by the products of separate farmers going into the co-operative creameries throughout the world who do not have the big budgets. We have had a huge world-wide campaign to suggest that in some mysterious way that if you eat margarine you did not get heart dissease in the same way as you would if you eat butter. We have been told that margarine is better for us from a health point of view. There is a great deal of evidence that butter is better but it is produced by scientists working in universities who do not get the publicity.

The margarine lobby has been less than frank. There is some evidence to show that one who eats some of the margarines has a lower cholesterol level and one will not have heart disease but there is also evidence the other way. It is not a simple question and there is the distortion of the truth about food quality often in semiexplicit ways as has been done by the margarine lobby. They have been rich enough to pay reputable scientists but it is possible to get the arguments on both sides and these arguments should be stated.

There is a product widely advertised which suggests that if one gets some glucose quickly into the body in some mysterious way one's recovery after illness is hastened but if one eats a piece of potato or a piece of bread it is very rapidly broken down into glucose anyway. In some cases this happens within seconds. This is misleading the public in the special value of a food product which comes as the end product in digestion anyway when one eats carbohydrates. That is misleading people and is not quite honest. Twenty years ago we had the weight of advertising telling people about the mysterious health-giving qualities of whiteness. Somehow or other if a thing was made very white or clear or pure it was better for the individual but this stopped when it was discovered that the bleaching of flour with agene produced a poison. That was found and stopped but not by the people bleaching the flour. It was found by animal experiments to discover why these forms of hysteria occurred.

There are many examples in the history of the food industry of people light heartedly going in because a thing looked whiter, cleaner or purer. We have to stop the type of advertising which says that whiter is healthier or clearer is healthier. We have to get people to accept that quality often means a minimum of treatment and not a maximum of treatment. It should be left alone as much as possible, not coloured, bleached or whitened. The less natural the product the worse it is but there has been a brainwashing of the public.

There has also been a brainwashing of the public in some obscure way about super-cleanliness. For example, we have had the phenomenon which permitted the widespread use of antibiotics in animals and humans. Using antibiotics on new-born babies was simply a mechanism for producing antibiotic-resistant strains of organisms which were then dangerous contaminants of the environment. In recent decades we have seen the widespread and uncontrolled use of antibiotics on farm animals, often not to cure disease but, if one could believe the advertising, to prevent it. It did not prevent it but it produced a widespread occurrence of drug-resistant strains of organisms which are a potential health hazard to humans. Salmonella organisms which cause food poisoning are an example.

The commercial pressures which tend to debase quality are enormous. I do not suggest this Bill is the end of the process—it is an early part of it. There is the dreadful, dishonest approach used with regard to slimming foods. If a person consumes more calories than he uses he puts on weight but there are people advertising all kinds of foods which suggest a person can eat them without getting fat no matter how much he eats. That is not true. This kind of approach confuses the public. We must get around to the question of honest advertising of food as well as the matter of guaranteeing quality.

We see as a worldwide phenomenon, but most of all in the developed countries, the health food movement. Often this is based on mysticism without scientific basis but at least those concerned with the movement are telling people where they can get simple, pure foods that are not messed up, with some guarantee as to the quality. That part of the health food movement is a benevolent and necessary one but, generally, the movement is for a small number of people who are already interested in food and the products cost a little more. The task of a Government is not to look out for those who can spend a little more on expensive foods but to protect the wider sections of the community because they are the people who are most susceptible to brainwashing by advertising that is not honest and are most in need of protection. I am not suggesting all advertising is dishonest. I have given some examples where there was dishonest advertising but there is plenty that is not.

We are moving towards highly processed foods, with complete meals at one end of the spectrum. Through advertising immense pressures are brought to bear on human taste. It looks as if people can be manipulated as to the kind of foods they should enjoy eating, which is rather depressing. We must remember that since we live the three score years and ten and, to some extent, that we are what we eat, and especially what we eat when we are little when our metabolism is rapid, there is a tremendous need as a matter of basic public welfare for the protection of the consumer. It is a human right to have food that is clean, healthy and not polluted or contaminated or altered unnecessarily. It is a human right to have food to a standard that will guarantee not alone the absence of disease but the best possible development of the individual. It is a right that must be protected both by public consciousness and by the law.

I should like to say a word to three sectors of our food industry because they concern my Department. They are the manufacturing, the distributing and the retailing sectors. They could well feel that this is a kind of busybody Bill produced by do-gooders which makes their task more difficult by introducing unnecessary controls and regulations. I should like to tell all these sectors that not only is this legislation in the interest of the consumer for whom it is primarily intended but it is also in the interests of the three sectors of the food industry.

If we consider the countries that have developed remarkable specialist food exports, they are the countries that have very high standards on the domestic front. When there is a highly critical home consumer market there is this tremendous quality. I shall give two examples of this. In Scandinavia meat products and crispbreads are exported throughout the world, even though one might think it would be difficult to export crispbreads economically. In France there is the great cultivation of the people with regard to food quality and they have large specialist food exports. In fact, with cheeses they are able to get three or four times the price obtainable for ordinary, run-of-the-mill cheese. The amount of milk in unit weight of an ordinary cheese and a highly specialist cheese is the same but one is much dearer than the other because it is a special product. The more cultivated the public taste, the more difficult the legislation, the more the food industry of a country has high standards forced on it, the more it is competitive and able to make its way on the market-place of the world on quality and diversity.

Far from injuring our food industry legislation will help it. It will not be applied without ordinary compassion and commonsense. It will be applied by the three Ministers involved in a reasonable way and in the recognition that one cannot do things overnight. Proceeding with the application of the present codex alimentarius conditions and future conditions in the pipeline is not protecting the consumer at the expense of the manufacturer. I want to emphasise that it is in the interests of the manufacturer also.

We might consider the shopkeeper who may think that some of these measures are just tiresome rules; the question of inspecting, the potential question of seizing, the investigations to ensure standards are maintained. For an individual on a given day that may be a nuisance but for retailing as a whole, for satisfying the needs of a more sophisticated public, those who welcome this and apply it wholeheartedly are those who will benefit. It is not in conflict with the interests of the distributing or retailing sectors, which is to satisfy to the highest level the wishes and needs of the customers.

I wish to emphasise again that there will be reasonable understanding in application and implementation—not latitude or laxity. There is the recognition that we cannot have enormous changes suddenly or behave in an arbitary or unreasonable way. However, applying these rules is, beyond doubt or argument, good for the consumer, which in the end means everyone. The producer and the retailer must eat also. It is also for the producer, the distributor and the retailer who are concerned to ensure that they honourably satisfy the consumer and, secondly, to ensure that in Ireland we have a strong food industry, able to compete in the market-place of the world as well as on the home market. We must be able with truth—in the long run it is the only real way—to say to any other nation in the world that our food is as good, and in the vast majority of cases it is better. We must welcome the most rigorous controls. Otherwise we cannot attain for our food industry the place that, due to the natural quality of our materials, rightly belongs to it. That is the place of being absolutely in the forefront of the world, being the very best in the world.

I have dealt with matters that are not related to the small print of the Bill and I have not tried to deal with matters raised by Deputy Collins which are primarily matters to be replied to by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. I wanted to make some of the points I have made because the wholehearted acceptance and implementation of both the detail and the intention of this Bill is a condition of the health of our food industry. In the long run our food industry will always be one of the most important strands of our whole economic and industrial growth.

Everybody will welcome enthusiastically what is contained in this Bill in so far as it provides the standards to protect the consumer. Anything the consumer gets by way of protection these days is more than welcome because he does not feel he is getting much protection in the matter of prices. Quality and quantity are things to which we should certainly turn our minds. Perhaps the consumer will look on it cynically but as time goes on the effects of the Bill, properly administered, will be seen by him and he will appreciate that it is generally intended to be in his interests.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce tried to anticipate some of the points that would be made. While welcoming the legislation and saying that it makes provisions that are necessary it is the duty of an Opposition to point out the dangers inherent in legislation which gives a Minister such wide powers. On the other side of the House I had occasion a few times to produce legislation that did give the Minister powers which would appear to encroach on the liberty of the individual. I always had to listen to the most stern warnings from this side of the House and sometimes on Committee Stage to accept amendments which provided certain safeguards. This Bill provides wide powers for all Ministers, not merely the three referred to in the Bill. Any Minister may appoint inspectors which will mean that there will be a host of inspectors or could be, depending on the commonsense that may be used. So far in this country we have had a fair measure of commonsense applied to the administration of any of the legislation which gave extreme powers if they were to be used in the wrong manner. Gardaí, customs officers, health inspectors, all types of individuals may become inspectors under the Bill if the Minister so wishes. All they need is their authority to go in and search premises, see if records are kept, seize food and take it with them, have it brought for analysis, have the culprits brought to court. I am now taking the extreme view which I am sure will never apply but on Committee Stage we should take a sharp look at all the provisions which give these extreme powers and ensure that there is an equal number of safeguards.

There is a provision whereby a person involved in the sale, production, distribution and so on of food for human consumption may find himself in court although it is not his own fault. The food may be as he found it. To prove that he bought the food in good faith will be a suitable defence but he will still have been subjected to the embarrassment of being brought into court. That is only one example. In the case of a premises which is an establishment prescribed under the legislation, a prosecution may be brought and the food will be held to have been there for human consumption until it is proved otherwise. For instance, if somebody visiting a hospital brought in sandwiches which were not up to the proper standard the hospital would be held responsible. If somebody brought into a restaurant ingredients which he used in his tea the restaurant could be held responsible. I only point out those details to emphasise that it is the duty of an Opposition to ensure that the necessary safeguards are included in legislation of this kind and that it is not allowed to pass in such a way that an unscrupulous administration could apply it in a manner which was never intended.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce made a sort of pedantic speech and referred to many matters which lie within the sphere of dieticians and those qualified in medicine. The Bill, unless it does so by regulation, does not emphasise the importance of having the nutritional and dietary qualities of food marked and certified on packages. I believe the Bill does provide that that may be done by regulation. This is one of the things the consumer most needs. In these days of escalating prices there is a tendency on the part of highly organised producers of food, particularly imported food, to drop quality in order to sustain profits and compete with each other. This is one of the drawbacks in modern times when production has become so scientific. I agree that when applied generally this safeguard would not react to the detriment of any producer. Modern science has provided a great many complexities in distribution, production, packaging and handling of food but it has also provided a great many safeguards. We now have plastic and cellophane packaging which are a great improvement on many types of packaging we had in the past.

I am not prepared to agree with the Minister for Industry and Commerce when he says that all the changes which have taken place in recent times in relation to food have been on the bad side. There have been very many improvements. We have beautiful presentation of many goods now but the temptation is always there to overadvertise. The public do not always fall for the over-advertised article. A little more sanity could be introduced into the type of advertising which strives to show that water made into some type of orange squash will enable you to jump over a nine-bar gate. I do not believe that people generally take these things too seriously. Some sense could be introduced into the claims that are made on the media, particularly on television. There is competition between two products, one trying to wash whiter than the other. The result is that people become disillusioned. Those who are advertising and paying highly skilled agencies to carry out the advertising for them would be well advised to introduce a note of responsibility into their advertising. The public would then accept their products much more readily.

Certain advertising creates a resistance in me. Sometimes in the morning I have to switch off the radio when I hear certain repetitive advertisements coming on, which certainly irk a person trying to shave with a bad blade. A lot could be done in regard to regulating advertising. If people took the slightest notice of the exaggerated claims made you would have a serious problem. People nowadays take many of these advertisements for granted and are not enamoured of the claims made. Most housewives apply the test of their own experience of the quality of the different products advertised.

The Bill is most necessary from the hygienic point of view. We have heard a lot of talk over the years regarding the handling of meat. Many of us have seen van attendants carrying on their shoulders meat without any wrapping whatever on it. They just dump it in the butchers' shops. When the product finally comes on the table it is beautifully cooked and served. The Bill needs to get at the root of hygiene in relation to foods. I hope I am not becoming irrelevant by referring to a recent Bord Fáilte announcement regarding hotels which are not up to standard in cleanliness. The most unwise thing was to publicise that because it put all the hotels in the same category. The vast majority of the hotels are very clean. Bord Fáilte should have taken the necessary action to ensure that the few hotels which were at fault improved their premises. One does not meet the unhygienic things in the diningroom or on the shelves of shops. It is at the source of production or very often in transportation where one meets them.

This Bill should be able to ensure that the food offered for human consumption is properly handled from the time it is produced to the time it is served on the table. This requires exceptional powers. We should try to awaken producers to what should be their duty in relation to hygiene in the production of food. Some people in this country get very annoyed when foreign journalists come here and write about the things we do but they ignore the fact that we require a little proding to do some things. In the early days of this State many people were annoyed when legislation had to be brought in to compel egg producers to sell their eggs clean and fresh. The egg producers felt the legislation interfered with them because it compelled them to sell their eggs clean. Legislation should really not have been necessary in this case.

The same also applies to farmers in relation to animal hygiene. Legislation had to be brought in to compel farmers to treat their animals for warble fly. Any good farmer should not need to be compelled to do such an essential thing. We have to legislate to compel the few who will not fall into line to do something which they should do.

I hope the Minister will ensure that the persons affected in the establishments that will be prescribed by legislation will not have their liberty encroached upon too much. We should not find them unjustifiably in court defending the sale of food which, as the Bill points out, was sold as the person bought it without being properly certified. If a shopkeeper sells such goods he can find himself in court. It is difficult to be able to prove that he received it in that particular manner. That person's business could be endangered.

One of the most common sources of deterioration in relation to food is when it is in transit. If the transport system during the hot, busy season of summer is taking consumable food from A to B and it is supposed to take six to eight hours but takes three days and the food arrives in a deteriorated condition the receiver should not be held responsible. There should be some means by which, before taking delivery, he can ensure that the goods he receives are fresh. One can visualise an old people's home, where they are short of staff, and goods are delivered in a back kitchen where some junior takes charge of it. It may not be up to the standard, which it should have been or was, when first consigned. In the old days—and I have painful memories of this from my neighbours in the fish export industry—whenever the price of fish fell suddenly the consignee refused to collect it until it deteriorated and then reported it as unfit so that he did not have to pay for it. Often the matter finished up in court. This was a matter of transport, how long it took to travel, whether it was in good condition when consigned and whether it was collected in time. A provision in the Bill to protect those handling food and provide a safeguard in that respect would be very useful.

Our Civil Service, as the law is administered at present, give no cause for worry as regards the power given to them. These powers are always used with great circumspection and all necessary consideration but there is no guarantee that will always be so. When I was bringing in the Dangerous Substances Act one of the main themes of the Opposition was the excessive powers given to inspectors to descend on premises and examine the property of private individuals and their storage, take records and check books. That Act has now been two or three years in operation. It is very good and, indeed, essential and I suggest there has been no single complaint about the powers of officials being abused. I imagine that could also be said of this legislation but it is necessary to have safeguards to ensure that some Administration would not use the powers unfairly or that there could be even one isolated case where an inspector might act, as has been known to happen, for vindictive reasons and abuse his power by unnecessarily dragging into court some decent citizen for a trivial offence or for something that could not be proved to be an offence at all. I know the Bill provides for all expenses to be paid by the prosecution where one is wrongly brought to court but that does not take away the humiliation and embarrassment and damage to business that may be caused by a person being brought to court.

While we must look at the Bill more closely on Committee Stage our duty would be while agreeing in principle with the Bill's provisions and the necessity for it as part of the continuing process of legislation to keep abreast of modern developments, to ensure that legislation does not go too far in interfering with individual rights and encroach unduly on people's privacy. Many believe that nutritional and dietary qualities of foodstuffs should be honestly indicated as far as possible on the package. This must be done in respect of many things we export. You can now buy fishmeal of different protein strength and it is priced accordingly and the specification must be set out on the containers. This applies also to other foods. I believe this is necessitated by laws in other countries in the case of exports; I think that if the product were sold within this country it would not be strictly necessary. There is an inclination now to produce something cheaper. Perhaps there is too much emphasis on attractive presentation rather than on safe and hygenic presentation. Modern packaging is a considerable improvement. If the price of bread were not so high at present I wonder if it would not be a good thing to have all bread wrapped as some of it is. This is not compulsory. I know it would add to the price and perhaps it is dear enough as it is but it is a food that is very much handled from the time it leaves the oven until it reaches the table. A medical practitioner told me recently that if one looked at most food through a very strong microscope one would not eat it. I am not suggesting that every household should be provided with a microscope but I support the provisions of the Bill in so far as they may extend to ensuring quality of food and hygiene.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce made a statement which if he can prove it should be of tremendous help to the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, that butter and milk do not raise the cholesterol level in the blood.

I was already aware of this.

If the Minister can prove that, he will have done a great thing to promote the sale of butter. The Minister now has an advertisement saying "butter is the cream" but people are aware that too much cream is not very good and I doubt if it will have the desired effect. Cheese is a high protein food. I do not want to be involved in the question of diet but cheese has some of the fat content already extracted and is a suitable food and is one on which the Minister should concentrate. I think, although the Minister for Industry and Commerce did not spell this out, what he meant was that every kind of food is bad if taken in excess and I think most of us eat too much. When the late President Kennedy addressed this House one of the first things he said and which he felt was pleasing was that world statistics showed that we were one of the best fed countries in the world. I would say a large percentage of us are overfed. This, perhaps, is a matter more for the Minister for Health and is completely irrelevant to the Bill but I am coming to the end of my speech and trust the Chair will be indulgent. I often mentioned to the previous Minister for Health that I thought that if doctors generally throughout the country were obliged on one day in the month in their own dispensary area or parish to give a lecture in regard to dietary behaviour and the nutritional qualities of different foods indicating the type of food to avoid or use sparingly, many of the illeffects blamed on food would never materialise.

To drink too much water is bad. To do anything in excess is bad. If the Minister can now advertise that the more milk, butter and cream one consumes the better it is for one's health, then he will be doing a great job for agriculture. I think the Minister for Industry and Commerce went so far as to say that that was so. I should like to hear what the medical profession have to say about that. I hope they agree, but I know many people whom they have advised otherwise.

Deputy O'Malley will speak about the health aspect of this subject about which I know very little. This is very necessary legislation. It deals with the most important thing in our lives, food for human consumption. It gives far-reaching powers to Ministers to make orders dealing with quality, distribution, advertising, production, transport, sales and storage of food, everything from the time it is produced until it appears on the table. To that extent, this legislation must lean towards the extreme side. We, as an Opposition, should ensure that there are ample safeguards to prevent abuses of the powers which are provided for the inspectorate to be appointed under the Bill.

The first thing that strikes one on reading this Bill is that almost all of it relates to the provisions for the making of regulations. In principle, of course, this is undesirable but I can understand in a field such as this that it would be futile to try to legislate for standards by writing them into an Act. These standards, hopefully at least, will change fairly rapidly from year to year as standards improve. As the Minister pointed out, we have the requirements of applying EEC and other world standards to our food standards. It would be impossible to do that if the Minister had to come back to the Oireachtas every time a change of this kind was made. In this particular case, therefore, I do not disagree with the principle of giving these enormous powers to make regulations.

So far as this Bill is concerned, I disagree with the fact that not alone are there no safeguards against possible abuses of that power of regulation but the contrary is the case. If one reads sections 6 and 7, which might be described as the legal part of the Bill, one will find that the defendant has no chance whatever. He is a loser from the start.

I wish to draw the attention of the House to subsection (4) of section 7. Members will see there a most extraordinary situation. I hope that this is not repeated anywhere in Irish law. Where a defendant successfully defends himself but because he did not tell the prosecution in advance what he was going to say he has to pay the prosecution's costs. That is really something. A man actually wins his case, is wrongly and improperly prosecuted by an officer of the Minister but because he did not tell them before he went to court what he was going to say in court he has to pay their costs. People should read that subsection because in my view it brings things to a very fine pass indeed. If a defendant can prove certain things he will not be found guilty but unless he has told the prosecutor beforehand he will have to pay the prosecutor's costs. There is no justification for such a monstrous provision.

I could use a number of the phrases which were used about my legislation when I was on that side of the House and which were not appropriate but would be appropriate to such an incredible proposal as this. A man is found not guilty, and is not guilty as is clear from section 4, but unless he told the man who was prosecuting him what he was going to say he would still have to pay the costs. Costs could run to 100 or 200 guineas if the prosecutor calls a number of witnesses. It is bad enough that even if a man can establish his innocence under section 7 he has to pay the prosecutor's costs.

Subsections (1), (2) and (3) happily have not the terrible provision that a successful defendant has to pay a prosecutor's costs. In each case the onus of proof is put on the defendant. Certain things are presumed until he proves the contrary. As I have already said, there are many quotations in the Official Report over the last few years which could profitably and more appropriately be quoted in relation to this Bill.

For the most part people are not interested in food standards. This is proved by the fact that at 7.20 this evening there is not one person in the public gallery and only two Members on the other side of the House. Nobody cares about food standards although we in this House say they are important. We still should not let section 7 of this Bill through without trying to draw the attenion of the public to what is in it. There is a long list of subsections saying that such a thing shall be presumed against the defendant unless he can prove to the contrary. It would not be an unfair summary to say that the net position which exists at the end of all these presumptions against the defendant which he has to disprove is that once a man is prosecuted he is guilty. He has to start disproving all these various presumptions which are assumed against him under this Bill. If he can disprove enough of them he may get off but, even if he does, he may still have to pay the prosecutor's costs.

The fact that many people, unfortunately, do not seem to worry about a thing like food standards should not stop them from worrying about provisions like this in our law because, if they are brought in here as they are in a comparatively unimportant Bill like this, there is a precedent. They can be referred to or called in aid in much more important matters. This Bill is unimportant only in the sense that very few people have any interest in it. It is not unimportant in the subject matter with which it deals. Many people may find after it is enacted, if it is enacted as it stands now, that they can be put in a most invidious and onerous situation through no fault of their own.

In section 6 the procedure is set out at some length for the disposal of food which is seized. It can be disposed of by the person seizing it, if the owner of the food consents. There is no great problem about that because presumably if it is clearly rotten or unfit the owner will consent because he will have to throw it out himself. What does matter is the instance where the owner does not consent and where there is a bona fide dispute. It may be food that is unfit in a technical sense only. It may not live up to its warranty, for example. It may not be in accordance with the label on it although otherwise it may be fit for human consumption.

Assuming that it is seized for unfitness and the owner does not consent to its destruction, the prosecutor or the person seizing it has to apply to the District Court for an order to have it destroyed, or to allow him to destroy it. That is all right in the city of Dublin or the city of Cork. The District Court sits six days in Dublin and five days in Cork, per week, but nowhere else does it sit every day. In the great majority of the District Court areas, it sits only on one day a month. In many cases it sits only on one day every two months.

If it is envisaged that the food should be retained until the District Court has had an opportunity to adjudicate on the case, the food, whatever its quality or fitness on the first day, clearly must be unfit by the time it comes up for a decision. In fairness to it, the section does envisage that because it does not envisage an order that the food be given back. It envisages the District Court making an order that the Minister, or whoever it is, should compensate the man whose food was improperly seized. Nonetheless, if a quantity of food is seized under this Bill, and its seizure is disputed by the owner and it is necessary to go to the District Court, you will find in practice that there will be a wait of anything from a week to three or four months before it is adjudicated on by the District Court. In the meantime, while the value of the food or the commodity in question may be safe enough in the sense that if the man wins his case the Minister will have to pay him anyway, if the seizure of the commodity concerned was a very large one, money will not compensate for its loss.

For the past six months or so there has been an actual shortage of many different kinds of commodities. We did not have that situation since shortly after the last world war. At the moment money will not buy certain things because they are not there. Their price has gone up greatly but they are still not there. If there was a seizure—perhaps the Minister would be glad to have ten tons of butter or meat seized and destroyed—of some commodity, other than meat or butter, of which there is a shortage, the fact that somebody will be compensated afterwards for a wrongful seizure is no consolation to the many people in the country who will have to do without that commodity.

There is provision that if either party is not satisfied with the decision of the District Court he can appeal to the Circuit Court. In Dublin, the average waiting time for an appeal to the Circuit Court is between six and nine months and that will be on top of whatever time you waited to get the case on in the District Court originally. The delay is not as long in provincial areas but it would usually be three months or so. I am not certain that the District and Circuit Court, under the procedure as envisaged here, are the best forums for trying to decide appeals of this kind. I am glad, of course, that there is a right of appeal but the section should be amended in some way to allow of a more expeditious deciding of these matters.

It is only in this Bill that the limitations on the various Ministers' powers —because at least three of them can make these regulations—can be set out. What is not set out here is that a limitation on the right to make a regulation will no longer exist as a limitation. We have to spell it out here. Unfortunately, apart from the sections giving powers to make regulations, basically the only other sections are ones which say, in effect, that in most cases the defendant will have to prove himself innocent. That is the wrong approach. The limitations in legislation on these regulations should be the other way round. The limitations on what Ministers can do should be clearly set out.

I know there is provision in section 10 for laying these regulations before the Oireachtas for the purpose of having them annulled. I do not recall that regulations made by a Minister were ever annulled. I can recall myself as a Minister getting this House and the other House to annul regulations made by the Incorporated Law Society increasing solicitors' fees by some large sum. It was the law society who made those regulations; it was not a Minister. In effect, we have to face the fact that, if a Minister makes regulations, they will never be annulled in this House while the particular Dáil of which he is a Minister remains. By the time the next Dáil comes along it is too late. The 21 sitting days have elapsed and you cannot annul them. You can, of course, repeal them in the ordinary way but that, again, is within the prerogative of the Minister, and the Minister only. It is not within the prerogative of either House of the Oireachtas.

While subsection (2) of section 10 is a common subsection now in legislation of this kind giving power of regulation, and while it is commendable on the face of it at least to have it there—it reads very well—technically it seems to flatter each House of the Oireachtas, but in practice we all know it means nothing because one could not get anything annulled unless by some freak or piece of good law. One will not get it annulled no matter how bad a regulation it is. I do not believe that any officer of any of these Ministers under this Bill would go out to persecute anyone or set out to do it. Nonetheless, if you look at section 5, you will see there is a vast number of people who are entitled to prosecute offences.

Not alone is it any officer of each of the three Departments, Agriculture and Fisheries, Industry and Commerce and Health—and they are all big Departments—but it is also any officer of any health board, or any officer of any local authority, or any officer of customs and excise. I do not know what is the total number of potential prosecutors but it could be as high, perhaps as, 8,000 or 10,000 people altogether and even more. If it is, one has no guarantee that there will not be at least one or two deliberately awkward people who will set out, perhaps in the context of a small local community, to persecute some shopkeeper or other person for their own good reasons.

In a prosecution about matters such as those contained in this Bill, unfortunately, it matters very little whether or not a man is convicted. The real damage is done by the fact that he is up for some offence relating to food, hygiene, standards, packaging, one thing or another of this kind. Unfortunately, in the eyes of a lot of the public the very fact that he is up is enough to condemn him. Of course, as I have said already, under this Bill the very fact that he is up means that he is almost certain to be convicted anyway because everything is loaded against him. I do think it necessary to draw attention to the fact that there is an abnormally large number of potential prosecutors. In each case I think the consent of some responsible person should be necessary before a prosecution could be undertaken because a prosecution can do enormous damage to someone and can do that damage without any mala fides at all on the part of the defendant, without what we call mens rea, without his even being aware that what he was doing was wrong.

One of the things that strikes me about subsection (2) is that all these regulations will apply to food which is being transported. I wonder is it wise to make such enormously wide regulations because you can have a situation where a licensed haulier is rung up by someone and asked: "Will you take a load to Limerick when you are up tomorrow?" It might not even be specified what the load was. He says: "I will" and he is told: "call at such a place". He is loaded with a number of containers, packages or cartons of some kind and he does not even know what is in them. If he is stopped, these are examined and it is found that the packaging, labelling or manufacture in some way contravenes regulations made under this Bill. That man, because he is transporting the goods, is guilty. It is not a question of a prosecution proving that he transported them and all the rest of it. There is a presumption of everything against him. Even though he is a perfectly innocent man, the only thing open to him to do is to avail of subsection (4) of section 7 and prove that he knew nothing about it; that he had no reason to believe that the Act or regulation was contravened and that he handed over the food in the same state as that in which he found it. If he does that, proves all those things and if he tells the prosecution this before they went to court so that the prosecutor did not bring his witnesses to court, then and only then will he get a dismissal without having to pay all the costs of the prosecutor.

Some years ago I took objection to people making up—and I used the words advisedly—all kinds of unlikely situations where all kinds of unlikely prosecutions might, most inconceivably, take place. I do not want to do now the very sort of thing that I rightly, I think, accused others in this House of doing some years ago. Nonetheless, when you have a potential 10,000 prosecutors—as you have under section 5 (1) of this Bill—one cannot rule out the possibility of some very unfair prosecutions being brought— what any normal person would regard as being very unfair. One cannot rule out that possibility. For that reason, in this piece of legislation, some sort of controls should be spelled out. It is the only opportunity we are going to get to try to keep some control over these regulations that will be made afterwards.

One of the negative controls, if you like, that I would advocate to the Minister now is that he drops most, if not all, of section 7 because this kind of legislation and the regulations made under it, God knows, are going to cause enough problems for enough people anyway without setting out one, two, three, four, five cases where there is a presumption against the defendant unless he proves the contrary. Apart from the one where I mentioned he has to pay the costs even if he does win, another very serious one is in subsection (3) where it says:

Where it is proved in any prosecution for an offence under this Act that anything was found on premises used for the manufacture or preparation of food and that the thing was capable of use in or for the purposes of such manufacture or preparation, it shall be presumed, until the contrary is proved, that it was being used in or for the purposes of the manufacture or preparation of food intended for sale for human consumption.

The gist of that is that, for example, in a restaurant where food is being prepared, if the owner of the restaurant had cat food or dog food in stock for his own cat or dog, and for their consumption only, nonetheless there would be a presumption that because it was possible to put that cat food into food for human consumption, there was a presumption that it was, in fact, put in.

Now we are stretching the imagination.

The Minister is smiling but that is what is there. It is described here by those celebrated words "the thing" about which we heard so much on another Bill. It is funny to see it come up here again in this context. If the Minister reads subsection (3) of section 7 he will find a situation where some "thing" which could go into food and which is found on premises used for the preparation or manufacture of food will be presumed to have been used in such food unless the defendant proves the contrary. I am not going to make a big song and dance about it. I merely want to say I think that is very unfair.

I can sympathise with situations in which there have to be from time to time certain presumptions but I do not think one needs the long series of presumptions listed in the Bill. I do not think also that these things should be presumed and be accepted as facts unless the defendant proves the contrary. There is a significant difference in this Bill. The defendant has to prove the contrary rather than, as one finds normally in Bills of this kind where there has to be presumption of some kind, that it will be presumed to be so unless the defendant can raise some reasonable doubt about it. It is not enough for the defendant here simply to raise a reasonable doubt. The thing will continue to be presumed against him as a fact, whether or not it is a fact, unless he can prove—and the word is used continuously in that section—the contrary. I think that is wrong.

Although this is an important Bill in the matters with which it deals, unfortunately, it is unimportant in so far as the public are concerned because they are not interested. For that reason the sort of things in this Bill would not pass this House and the Seanad if this were a Bill that aroused greater public interest. The fact that this Bill does not arouse greater public interest does not in any way lessen the validity of the things to which I have referred and that is why I think the Minister should think again about the necessity for having such excessively wide powers as are contained in this Bill against the ordinary citizen.

I have listened with considerable interest to what Deputies have had to say and I can assure them that between now and Committee Stage their contributions will be borne in mind when having a second look at this measure. I was surprised to find Deputy O'Malley apparently much more concerned about the legal aspects of the Bill rather than the health aspects. I expected him to deal with the Bill in a different way. However, I appreciate the matters he raised and I can assure him they will be carefully studied before the Bill comes back to the House on Committee Stage.

I was pleased that Deputies realised the necessity for this Bill. I think it was Deputy Brennan who said that food is an extremely important thing in the lives of our people and the greatest care must be exercised in the preparation, handling and packaging of food for human consumption and that we are not always careful enough.

There have been some criticisms but, on the whole, the Bill has been accepted as a necessary measure, as a desirable measure, and as a measure in line with legislation in other countries which have already introduced these standards essential not only for the health of the people but for the good of the country and for the sale of the produce of the country generally either when it is exported or consumed at home.

Deputy Collins was concerned because there seemed to be no reference to the need for stipulating the nutritive value of food. That is actually included because quality is included. At any time any one of the Ministers concerned can make an order prescribing quality and the various nutritives so that the purchaser will know exactly what he or she is getting. If Deputy Collins feels this is not adequately covered—I believe it is —perhaps he would put down an amendment designed to cover it more adequately. The Deputy seems to think there is a shortcoming in section 2, but actually there is a reference to quality in that section.

In section 3, he objects to two months being prescribed as a minimum. He thinks four months should be the minimum. There is no maximum prescribed and, in implementing legislation of this kind, it has always been the practice for those responsible for implementation and supervision to be reasonable. I think it would be unreasonable to give only two months. I imagine normal discretion is exercised and a longer period permitted. For that reason I do not think it is necessary to amend the section.

Deputy Collins believes section 4 is not sufficiently comprehensive. I do not know in what respect it falls short, but I shall have a look at it.

A number of Deputies spoke about the importance of protecting the housewife and the way in which advertising is often designed to deceive or to over-impress. This Bill does not cover advertising. More than one Deputy referred to the importance of advertising and how advertising should be treated. We have all sorts of foods being advertised every day and people being induced to buy them.

Might I ask the Minister a question? Does this cover advertising on packages?

The section provides that the food must contain what is written on the package. I suppose one could describe that as advertising, but I got the impression that we were talking about advertising in the various communications media. That is not covered. The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that the quality of the food is good and that the food is safe. It is not to ensure that people buy it because someone impresses on them that it is the right thing to buy because it is a bright red colour. The important thing is to ensure the safety of the food. It is the safe levels that are really important. While we had what might be described as straight food, food not tampered with in any way, the dangers were very much less. This is the age of the ready-mix and the cure-all. This is what we have to provide against. Everything is now ready to put on the plate, as it were, and it will do all sorts of things for all sorts of people. The important thing is to ensure that the food is safe and does not contain dangerous residues.

The levels of the various residues were covered very well by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Indeed, his contribution was very useful, the more so as he is one who has a responsibility in the matter. He is one of the three Ministers involved. He is also a veterinary surgeon and, therefore, well qualified to speak on the Bill before us. He spoke about the fact that dangers have increased enormously because of the variety of foods we now have containing very many ingredients, coming from all parts of the world, being packaged in a variety of ways and possibly handled over a considerable period of time.

Deputy Brennan made a very useful point when he spoke about the importance of transport. One can easily see where difficulties could arise here. Certain perishable goods, in perfect order when purchased and which would answer all the standards indicated on the labels of packets, if they had to be transported a distance in certain conditions might not be in a safe condition by the time they arrived at their destination. This is a very important consideration and one must look very carefully at the responsibility of the receiver in such cases. Deputy Brennan indicated that food arriving at certain institutions was being received by people who were not particularly well qualified to judge the effects of this type of handling. He mentioned that such people might take in this food and serve it up believing it was right because it was bought from a certain person, one who was known to be reliable. I believe the Deputy was referring particularly to institutions such as hospitals.

Deputy Collins thought it was unfair to include institutions of this kind. He felt that there were other types of places where food was served which did not seem to be covered by the Bill but I feel that there is a general cover given in the Bill. The Bill deals with a number of places where food is normally sold and dispensed and then it refers to institutions. The point raised by Deputy Collins is covered under that.

The dangers that arise from additives of all descriptions which are used to add colour and a certain magic from the point of view of sales was referred to by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Keating. He pointed out that these additives used at certain levels are safe but when one goes beyond those levels are very unsafe. Sulphur dioxide was one of the substances referred to. The Minister for Industry and Commerce also referred to the fact that tests, generally speaking, were much too short and to the fact that there was too little knowledge about the long-term effects. Humans live longer than the mice on which these tests are carried out and it could be 30 to 40 years before the accumulated effects of certain additives and undesirable substances in foods might become known. It is hard to know exactly how to safeguard against this sort of thing but a considerable amount of commonsense has to be used when we are deciding what is permissible.

There is no doubt but that a lot of the insecticides and antibiotics in one part of the world can be used safely but in other parts they cannot. We have to have these standards on a common basis and over a very wide area and it is obvious from what we have heard from codex alimentarius that many countries have agreed to these standards and are carrying them out. These countries see the importance, and the dangers, attaching to additives and residues of all sorts.

One of the things that makes me feel happy about this Bill is the constitution of the committee that has been set up to advise the Government. It is unlikely that people of their qualifications and experience would allow legislation of this kind to come before the House unless they were reasonably satisfied that this legislation was needed in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It is a very widely-based committee and one for which we would always have a great deal of respect.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce covered all the dangers that arise from pollution, from the use of chemicals on various types of land and the results when these flow into lakes and rivers. He told us of the various troubles that can arise from eating the fish from such rivers, and from residues in meat and other sources. One of the things we can be fairly happy about is that An Foras Talúntais have done research on the levels of these residues in our meat and in our food products and this has shown, beyond all doubt, that we have the lowest level in Europe. This is something we ought to be very proud of.

I believe this legislation will be implemented in a reasonable way. The existence of it is what is really important. People will become aware that standards are expected from them and that they are liable to get into trouble if they do not make an effort to maintain reasonable standards. A minority of our people are extremely careless and they must be reminded that anything is just not good enough for people and that they have to be more careful about their standards. I do not see the wide powers that are undoubtedly given in this legislation, and which are undoubtedly necessary, being abused in any way. These wide powers are necessary because one could not possibly conceive the variety of situations that will have to be met in the course of time to reach certain standards. We are all anxious to have these standards.

Deputy O'Malley referred to the fact that while these regulations will come before the House it is inconceivable that the House would decide against a regulation made by a Minister. One of the things that Governments have to be careful about is public opinion arising from these things. The fact that these regulations can be discussed in detail in this House is a safeguard. It will also mean that Ministers will have to be careful when making regulations so as to ensure that they will not be open to criticism of a kind that is undesirable for any legislator.

I was delighted to hear a professional man say that this question of margarine being less dangerous than butter was all nonsense. I agree with that and I am glad to say that more and more people are coming around to the same belief. I am glad that all this nonsense about the level of cholesterol arising as a result of eating butter or drinking cream is pretty well debunked. I hope the people will realise that they could not eat better foods. It is right to say that all sorts of people set themselves up as authorities with very little backing and it is amazing the way they can mislead the people.

While advertising is not covered in this, other Ministers have responsibility for advertising. The brainwashing efforts were described; they can be dangerous and overdone. Another danger is the over-prescribing of drugs generally but the long-term effects have not been measured. That matter does not come within the scope of this Bill but is covered in other legislation. It has been pointed out that it is a human right to have good food and that is what we are trying to do. We want to ensure that the various aspects involved, the production, packaging and transportation, are carefully considered and done in such a way so that at the very least they will not upset the health of people but, in fact, will be of benefit to those who must eat the food.

I have covered most of the points raised by the various speakers and if there are any other aspects that need examination before the next Stage I shall do so. I do not agree with Deputy O'Malley's criticism, mainly in connection with section 7. It is normal practice that a person is considered innocent until he is proved guilty. Deputy O'Malley is a lawyer and I shall certainly give careful consideration to section 7 to see if changes are required or if it is considered there are sufficient safeguards in the Bill.

I should like to thank the Deputies who have contributed in the debate. The comments have been very helpful.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for 15th May, 1974.