Created by decree in 1985, the « Conseil National de l’Alimentation » (French National Food Council) is an independent advisory body placed under the authority of the Ministers in charge of environment, health, consumer affairs and agriculture, that brings together the stakeholders in the food production chain. The Council may be consulted on the definition of national food policy development. It produces reports and recommendations for the attention of public decision makers and food production chain stakeholders on various topics such as food quality, consumer information, nutrition, food safety, access to food, and the prevention of crisis…

Referred to as a « parliament for food », the CNA develops a socioeconomic approach, encompassing the today’s professional environment as the consumers’ expectations and preferences. Consultation requests may come from the authorities, or directly from its chairperson, in all matters falling within the CNA field of competence.

Divided into eight committees, its 63 members represent the main components of the food production chain :

  • farmers,
  • processing and distribution sectors,
  • food service industry,
  • restaurateurs,
  • civil society (non-profits active on environmental protection, animal welfare, and the prevention and control of obesity)
  • consumer and user associations,
  • agricultural and foodprocessing workers,
  • various experts.

They are appointed for a three-year renewable term. Representatives from public institutions of research and scientific evaluation and from all the concerned ministries may serve as ex officio members. Where warranted by the Council’s agenda, any key figure or Government representative may also be requested to participate in the Council’s work.
As an independent advisory body whose purpose is to assist public and private decisionmakers in ‘governing‘ the food sector, the Council is not a substitute for expert bodies on scientific matters, particularly in the field of evaluation, nor for economic policy-making bodies. Nevertheless, it may consult them to fulfill its role in promoting dialogue, consultation and proposals to define objectives for the implementation of coherent initiatives by all players in the field.

Through continuous consultation between all of its members, the CNA attempts to align the views of the various committees with the constant aim of achieving the greatest consensus possible. To do so, once referred to by the authorities or its chairperson, the CNA sets up a Working Group, whose Chairperson may be or not one of its members.
The Working Group, composed of voluntary CNA members and other relevant stakeholders, meets regularly to prepare draft reports and opinions prior to their submission to the CNA Plenary Session. Depending on the nature of the topics being dealt with, the time between approving the terms of reference and passing the opinion and recommendations is between six and eighteen months.
When the views expressed by the various committees are in such opposition that they form a long-term barrier to consensus, the CNA takes the majority opinion. Nevertheless, the differing views are explicitly recorded in the opinion adopted by the Council. Once passed in the Plenary Session, the CNA‘s opinions are published and widely distributed.

In 2010, a Food Public Policy was introduced in the French Law, implemented through a National Program for Food (Programme national pour l’alimentation, PNA): the CNA has been tasked by the same law with the follow up of the implementation of the PNA. Since 2016, Guillaume Garot, Deputy and ex Minister for the Agri-Food Industry, is the CNA President.

Since its creation in 1985, the CNA has issued 84 opinions. The newest ones concern :

  • School catering (2017) ;
  • Food in hospital (2017) ;
  • Food e-commerce (2018) ;
  • Food and health (2018) ;
  • Slaughterhouse ethics committee (2019) ;
  • Feedback on the Fipronil crisis (2019) ;
  • Food education.

Work in progress concerns farming methods labelling and packaging. The organization of public debate on food is among the main work areas for 2019-2020.

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