01.01.2014 "Actively promote human and animal health and wellbeing."
Five questions for Hans Wyss. To further tighten the cooperation between the Federal Veterinary Office (FVO) and the Food Safety Division of the Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH), the Federal Council (Swiss government) decided in 2012 to merge the two. Subsequently the new Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) was created. It will be operational from January 2014 onwards and will be the centre of competency for food safety, nutrition, animal health, animal welfare as well as species and animal protection in international trade.
A new federal office has been inaugurated at the beginning of 2014. You will be the director of this new office. What were the considerations and visions that lead to the decision to create a new Food Safety and Veterinary Office?
For many years, the way food safety has been organised at the federal level was an issue. The transfer of the Federal Veterinary Office from the Federal Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) to the Federal Department of Home Affairs (DHA) at the beginning of 2012 was a decisive step towards strengthening cooperation between the FVO and the FOPH in order to make better use of synergies in the field of food safety. In the wake of this decision, the DHA considered various options for the future organisation of food safety. It became evident that if only a single federal office within the DHA were responsible for the entire food chain process, overlaps could be eliminated, enforcement in the cantons effectively strengthened, and regulation at the federal level simplified. Therefore, at the DHA's request, the Federal Council decided in 2012 to merge the existing FVO and the FOPH's Food Safety Division. As a result the new Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) has been created and will begin its work in January 2014.
What do you see as the new Office's main tasks?
The Office's main task is to actively promote human and animal health and wellbeing. The cornerstones are food safety for people as well as welfare and health for animals. We also have to ensure that we are equipped to address new tasks and threats. In this context, cooperation with cantonal implementation agencies and our partners at international level is also of great importance.
Nutrition had previously been a responsibility of the Federal Office of Public Health. Now a new Office will be dealing with issues relating to balanced nutrition for the Swiss population. In the past the cooperation with FOPH has been very close. What will this cooperation look like in the future?
Nutrition, i.e. consumption of food, is an important component of everyday life. The goal of the FSVO is to continue implementing the Swiss Nutrition Strategy and to see that the needs of the target groups involved are taken into account so as to protect their health and prevent any diet-related illnesses. As a new partner in the "National Programme on Diet and Physical Activity", the FSVO will be responsible for "Promoting balanced diets". The FSVO will continue to work closely with the FOPH.
What synergies and advantages will the new Office generate?
It will eliminate various existing overlaps between the FVO and the FOPH in the field of food safety. The merging of responsibilities along the food chain will improve efficiency and quality. The new Office will facilitate coordination of uniform implementation of the Food Act in the cantons and simplify regulation in the food safety field. The reorganisation also reflects the growing importance of food safety against the background of global trade. It will furthermore facilitate cooperation with the EU and other international organisations.
Among all the players involved, cooperation will be easier simply because the establishment of the FSVO means that cantonal implementation agencies, the food industry, consumer protection organisations, but also the media and the Swiss public will now have only one
single interlocutor at the federal level.
The new Office's internet banner visualises the food chain – from the stable to the table. What message is the FSVO aiming to communicate to the public?
The image reflects the breadth of the FSVO's tasks: food safety, animal health and animal welfare. In addition, where foodstuffs of animal origin are involved, food safety starts with the animal – therefore high-quality animal husbandry is the cornerstone of animal health. Animal health is in turn a prerequisite for food that is safe for human consumption. But the banner was also designed to express enjoyment and wellbeing, which ultimately is the basis of both animal and human health.