Updating members of Parliament on the current situation Byrne said: "Food safety was the key public concern at the start of my mandate. The Commission's White Paper, published in early 2000, responded to that concern setting out a well-defined action plan to put matters right.
"Four years later I am pleased to say that we have made enormous progress in building a new food safety system fit for the 21st century."
Byrne claimed that the European Food Safey Authority (EFSA) is now 'well and truly up and running', that it is making progress towards it goals and that targeted legislation is being constantly updated to meet the body's objectives.
"I would mention in particular the food hygiene package, pesticides residue limits, the feed hygiene proposal, and our important proposal on official controls," he said.
On the subject of food imports - an issue key to future enlargement - Byrne highlighted the sensitivity of this particular area, pointing out that high standards had to be maintained within the framework of international obligations.
"As a general principle, the Commission aims to ensure that imported products are treated no more favourably, or less favourably, than products produced in the EU."
"All the relevant EU legislation is systematically notified to our trading partners in the WT," he said.
Byrne claimed that the Commission is 'paying particular attention' to the needs of the developing countries and would continue to amend legislation to address these concerns. He also said that the current proposals for food and feed regulations include provisions to assist developing countries.
However, on the subject of imports, the Commissioner stressed that strict controls would remain in place, no matter what there origin might be.
"The Member States of the EU have invested hugely over the past number of years in putting in place a system which ensures safety from farm to fork. We cannot allow this progress to be undermined in any way," he said.
"We therefore have a rigorous system of controls in place aimed at ensuring that imported products are safe. These include assessments of the legislation and control systems in third countries, and the situation in relation to major animal diseases. The Food and Veterinary Office carries out on-the-spot controls to verify compliance. "
Specifically addressing the subject of enlargement Byrne said that his principles concerns were to ensure the full transposition and implementation of the food safety aquis and that progress was being continually monitored, particularly as accession day for the new Member States draws ever closer.
"I have consistently made it clear that the overall level of food safety cannot be compromised in the accession process to avoid any health risk for consumers and to guarantee the functioning of the internal market," Byrne said. "To this end I and my services have spelled out precisely where the accession states need to make further and rapid progress. The Accession Treaty gives the Commission the power to invoke safeguard measures if necessary. I have stressed that it is in everyone's interest to avoid the use of such measures.
"Over the coming months I will continue to work with the new member states to encourage completion of their programme of work," he added.
On 1 May, 2004, the ten accession countries - Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic, and Slovenia - will bring the EU membership up to 25. The move has meant a great deal of upheaval for many of the affect countries in order to conform with strict regulations on food safety and hygiene. Many existing food and drink businesses will inevitably close due to lack of compliance and a greater level of consolidation is expected to follow.
Bulgaria and Romania's entry is currently mooted for 2007, while negotiations with Turkey are stalled.