Risk assessment

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 also undertakes scientific work on its own initiative, so-called self-tasking, particularly in fields such as emerging risks where scientific knowledge and approaches are continually evolving. EFSA’s work includes harmonization of risk assessment methodologies. One example is the development of a harmonised approach to compare the risks posed by substances with the potential to cause cancer, and provided advice on the biosafety of antibiotic resistant marker genes.

The Authority also has an important role in collecting and analysing scientific data to ensure European risk assessment is supported by the most complete scientific information available. It does this by working with the EU Member States to gather, share and analyse EU-wide data, as well as launching public consultations and calls for data to gather information from external sources.

Communicating on risks associated with the food chain based on EFSA’s scientific advice is also a key part of EFSA’s mandate.