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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)  is the keystone of European Union (EU) risk assessment regarding food and feed safety. In close collaboration with national authorities and in open consultation with its stakeholders, EFSA provides independent scientific advice and clear communication on existing and emerging risks.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was set up in January 2002, following a series of food crises in the late 1990s, as an independent source of scientific advice and communication on risks associated with the food chain. EFSA was created as part of a comprehensive programme to improve EU food safety, ensure a high level of consumer protection and restore and maintain confidence in the EU food supply.
EFSA’s role is to assess and communicate on all risks associated with the food chain. Since EFSA’s advice serves to inform the policies and decisions of risk managers, a large part of EFSA’s work is undertaken in response to specific requests for scientific advice. Requests for scientific assessments are received from the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States. EFSA also undertakes scientific work on its own initiative, so-called self-tasking.
Accordingly, EFSA’s advice frequently supports the risk management and policy-making processes. These may involve the process of adopting or revising European legislation on food or feed safety, deciding whether to approve regulated substances such as pesticides and food additives, or, developing new regulatory frameworks and policies for instance in the field of nutrition. EFSA is not involved in these management processes, but its independent advice gives them a solid scientific foundation.
Through its risk communications activities EFSA seeks to raise awareness and further explain the implications of its scientific work. EFSA aims to provide appropriate, consistent, accurate and timely communications on food safety issues to all stakeholders and the public at large, based on the Authority’s risk assessments and scientific expertise.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was established to assess risks associated with the food chain, its main mandate. EFSA’s risk assessment work contributes to improving food safety in Europe and to building public confidence in the way risk is assessed. Risk assessment is a specialised field of applied science that involves reviewing scientific data and studies in order to evaluate risks associated with certain hazards.
In its first five years EFSA delivered over 450 scientific opinions on a wide variety of risk issues. These included Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE), the safety of food additives such as aspartame, allergenic food ingredients, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), wild and farmed fish, pesticides, and animal health issues including Avian Influenza.
- EFSA Management Board
- EFSA is governed by an independent Management Board whose members are appointed to act in the public interest and do not represent any government, organisation or sector. The 15-member Board sets EFSA’s budget, approves the annual work programme and is responsible for ensuring that EFSA works effectively and co-operates successfully with partner organisations across the EU and beyond.
- Executive Director
- EFSA’s Executive Director, currently Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle (appointed in July 2006 for a five year term), is the legal representative of the Authority. She is responsible for all operational matters, staffing issues and drawing up the annual work programme in consultation with the European Commission, European Parliament and EU Member States
- EFSA Science
- EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Panels are composed of highly qualified experts in scientific risk assessment. All members are appointed through an open selection procedure on the basis of proven scientific excellence, including experience in risk assessment and peer-reviewing scientific work and publications.
Scientific Panels & Units
EFSA aims to deliver the best science at the right time and in the most appropriate manner. To do this effectively, the scientific work at EFSA is conducted by two directorates: Risk Assessment, supporting the work of the scientific panels, and Scientific Co-operation and Assistance that manages projects in the areas of scientific co-operation with Member States, data collection, emerging risks and assessment methodology. This directorate includes the Pesticide Risk Assessment Peer Review (PRAPeR), the Zoonoses data collection unit as well as the Data Collection Exposure (DATEX) unit, the Emerging Risks (EMRISK) unit and the Assessment Methodology (ASMET) unit.
EFSA’s Scientific Panels:
- Animal health and welfare (AHAW)
- Food additives and nutrient sources added to food (ANS)
- Biological hazards (BIOHAZ), including BSE/TSE-related risks
- Food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids (CEF)
- Contaminants in the food chain (CONTAM)
- Additives and products or substances used in animal feed (FEEDAP)
- Genetically modified organisms (GMO)
- Dietetic products, nutrition and allergies (NDA)
- Plant protection products and their residues (PPR)
- Plant health (PLH)
- Former Panel on additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (Former AFC)
Openness and transparency
Openness and transparency mean that EFSA is able to meet the legitimate need of stakeholders (including the food industry) to understand the basis for risk assessment. These values also allow for an informed debate, both among experts and in the media, on sensitive and important scientific issues within the remit of EFSA.
EFSA consistently listens to the views of outside parties, particularly its stakeholders. Many stakeholder groups have a close interest in EFSA’s work, from the food industry to environmental and consumer groups. EFSA proactively seeks their input and exchanges different points of view, particularly through its Stakeholder Consultative Platform and an annual Stakeholder Colloque. EFSA also consults outside parties by holding open consultations via the EFSA website, face-to-face meetings and multilateral discussions at scientific conferences and seminars.
Excellence in science
EFSA is committed to providing European risk managers with objective and independent science-based advice grounded in the most up to date and reliable scientific information and data available. Excellence in science is consequently a core value for the Authority. As EFSA is a pan-European organisation of leading scientists in the field of science-based risk assessment, the experts on EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Panels are appointed for a three year term on the basis of proven scientific excellence. In addition to the excellent scientific credentials of the experts working for EFSA, the Authority applies rigorously high scientific standards to its risk assessment work and ensures that the latest scientific knowledge and approaches are taken into account in its opinions.
EFSA was created in order to separate risk management from risk assessment and ensure an independent voice on risks associated with the food chain within the European Food safety network. As a result, EFSA is funded from the Community budget but it is an independent organization.
The Authority applies a robust set of internal mechanisms to safeguard the independence of its scientific work. All experts on Panels and in working groups are required to sign a commitment of independence and provide annual declarations of interest which are published on the EFSA website. In addition, Panel scientists are required to declare their interests at each meeting.
All the final Opinions of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Panels result from collective decisions, each member having an equal say with any minority views recorded. This process reinforces the impartiality and balance of EFSA’s outputs and protects against any undue influence.
EFSA aims to be a responsive and reliable source of support for decision-makers who require the most complete, up-to-date and timely scientific information and advice on which to base policies and decisions. EFSA prioritises its work accordingly. In 2006 EFSA demonstrated its ability to respond rapidly by issuing advice on the safety of an unauthorised GM rice detected in the European food chain and by co-ordinating an efficient EU-wide assessment response to an outbreak of the animal disease Bluetongue in north European ruminant populations.
Its risk communication activities are also managed to effectively reflect changes in the European policy environment, including unplanned and unforeseen events that may impact the safety of the European food chain.