The European Commission's independent food safety authority will have no powers of policing or legislating against the major food companies, according to the details of the White Paper published this week. It will be an advisory and scientific body and not an enforcement agency, disappointing many food experts who wanted to see the industry "clean up its act". Commission president Romani Prodi argued an authority was vital to protect an industry that has been rocked over the last few years by the BSE crisis, the contamination of food with cancer causing dioxins, and the use of sewage slurry in animal feed. The 30 page report proposes the formation of the authority by 2002. Its role is to operate a rapid alert system in crises and promote improved planning to avert them. Its powers will be restricted to gathering scientific information, issuing opinions and recommendations and communicating with consumers, according to the White Paper. Decision making and law making powers will remain in the hands of member states' governments and the European parliament. The commission is on the lookout for a director to run the new authority and "comments are invited by stakeholders" by mid March to decide on a new home and the number of staff it will employ. Commission bureaucrats remained upbeat about the authority's effectiveness; it will improve the quality of European lives, restore consumers' faith in food policy, and enhance competitiveness, they said. "It will benefit everyone," said a spokesman. l The European Commission has also told food companies they will have to provide labels on food if any ingredient contains 1% or more of genetically modified soya or maize. The threshold could fall further as early as next year. {{NEWS }}