With more of a whimper than a big publicity bang, the European Food Safety Authority this week became an official body ­ albeit one without an official launch date, official home or, for that matter, a top official to lead it. Those with long memories will recall that food safety formed a major part of the current Commission's agenda when it came into power in September 1999. And despite Commissioner David Byrne's praise for the "fast-track" way in which the EFSA regulation has been adopted, the fact it has taken a staggering 27 months to turn a policy priority into reality is yet another damning indictment of the sluggish way in which Brussels tends to go about its business. Nevertheless, Europe's food industry will welcome the fact that the EFSA will soon be fully operational. The problems faced by the Continent's producers during the past two-and-a-bit years ­ BSE and foot and mouth spring most readily to mind ­ have underlined exactly why we need an independent agency providing advice that can be trusted by every stakeholder in the food chain. But an important question remains unanswered: will the creation of the EFSA, and with it a new framework for EU food law, do anything to dissuade member states from using safety issues to justify the introduction of illegal trade barriers? One only has to remember the reaction of France to BSE in the UK to see how quickly such barriers go up ­ and how difficult it can be to dismantle them. The fact that Europe's politicians are still bickering over where the EFSA should be based provides an unpleasant taste of what we can expect on the unity front. The Commission may be trying to build a pan-European food safety regime, but Europe's politicians will continue to pander to domestic opinion when it suits them. If ­ God forbid ­ another food safety crisis should break in Europe, any response must not only be proportionate, it must also be implemented uniformly across the EU. Ensuring that is a reality must be the Commission's next "fast-track" priority. Julian Hunt, Editor (Designate) {{LETTERS }}