Wednesday, 14 July 2021
Department of Health
435. To ask the Minister for Health if he is satisfied that no conflict of interest exists in the appointment of a director of a company that produces baby milk formula to the Safefood Advisory Committee given the role of Safefood in promoting nutrition and specifically breastfeeding. [31569/21]
The British-Irish Agreement Act, 1999 provides for the Food Safety Promotion Board/Safefood to have both an Advisory Board and an Advisory Committee.
Safefood Advisory Committee (SAC) members are selected by Safefood following a publicly advertised invitation for expressions of interest from suitably qualified professionals ?working in fields relevant to the organisation's aims. The SAC is drawn from a wide range of disciplines, including the food industry.
The role of the SAC is advisory. It meets on average twice a year and provides expert advice to Safefood when it considers new and emerging issues in the wider food environment. Members advise Safefood on food safety and healthy eating related issues within their own areas of professional expertise. They also advise on strategic and cost-effective communications mechanisms for fostering positive food safety across the food chain and healthy eating behaviours. The SAC provides Safefood’s in-house experts with different perspectives.
Appointees to the SAC must comply with the Code of Conduct for SAC members and disclose any information or personal connections which, if appointed, could lead to a real or perceived conflict of interest. Members of the SAC must comply with Safefood's corporate governance requirements dealing with the potential for a conflict of interest. Should conflicts of interest arise, the relevant member is required to highlight the potential conflict and must, in line with procedure, step back from any discussions on those issues as appropriate.
Safefood developed a code of practice for Advisory Board and SAC members and procedures for conflict of interest is included.
SAC members act in a voluntary capacity and are there to bring their expertise to topics for discussion – they are not present to represent the views of their employer. Safefood advises that all SACs appointed to date have included food industry representatives.
The Department of Health and the HSE are responsible for breastfeeding policy in Ireland. Safefood is not responsible for breastfeeding policy. The HSE Breastfeeding in a Healthy Ireland Action Plan is the framework for progressing supports for breastfeeding in Ireland. Since its publication, the HSE has established the National Breastfeeding Implementation Group to progress relevant actions. A new Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes in public health services is in final draft and is due for implementation across all health services in 2021. In 2021, my Department made a significant investment towards implementing the Breastfeeding Action Plan. I recently announced additional funding to the HSE of €1.58 million to fund 24 additional lactation consultants, thereby providing support to every maternity unit in the country.