Department ‘taking 2-step approach’ in establishing Food Ombudsman

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is “currently taking a two-step approach” in the establishment of the office of a National Food Ombudsman, according to Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine Charlie McConalogue.

Speaking at the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) online annual general meeting today (Thursday, January 28), the minister highlighted that the EU’s Unfair Trading Practices (UTP) Directive must be transposed by May 1, 2021.

Noting that the current Programme for Government included the commitment to establish a National Food Ombudsman to enforce the UTP Directive “and to have a specific role in analysing and reporting on price and market data in Ireland”, Minister McConalogue said:

I have set aside €1 million in this year’s budget for the establishment of the new office and I have asked that this work is given priority by my officials.

“The current position is that my department is taking a two-step approach in that,” he added.

Providing a breakdown of this, he said: “Firstly, my officials are drafting a proposal for a Statutory Instrument to directly transpose the UTP Directive as it stands before the May 2021 deadline.

“This will include the establishment of an enforcement authority for the unfair trading practices provided in the Directive.

“Secondly, as the legal requirements to establish a new Office of a Food Ombudsman or equivalent are different from that required for the UTP Directive, primary legislation is required to be enacted which will take longer than the transposition of the directive.

In that regard, my officials are examining what type of functions might be assigned to that office, in addition to the price reporting and analysis and the UTP functions mentioned in the Programme for Government.

On this note, Minister McConalogue outlined his intention to hold a national consultation for stakeholders on the kind of functions a Food Ombudsman type role might involve before the primary legislation is finalised.

He added: “This will not delay the setting up of the Enforcement Authority required by the UTP by the May deadline and which will later be incorporated into the new office.

“Details of the national consultation will be published shortly,” the minister concluded.