Members of the European Food Safety Authority’s Management Board have adopted EFSA’s Science Strategy 2012-2016 and its Policy on independence and scientific decision-making processes. The Board also adopted the Management Plan and budget for 2012. More than 10 percent of the €78.8 million budget is dedicated to promoting scientific cooperation with Member States through outsourcing of preparatory scientific work, an increase of €1 million in contracts and grants on 2010.
Meeting in Warsaw, Board members adopted the Science Strategy, which lays out the vision of how EFSA will continue to support the European food safety system over the next five years and meet the demands placed upon it. Guided by EFSA’s corporate Strategic Plan for 2009-2013, the document has been through a process of extensive consultation with staff and stakeholders, partner European institutions, national authorities and EFSA’s Scientific Committee and Advisory Forum, and was submitted for public consultation.
The consultation confirmed the main objectives of the Science Strategy which are: to further develop EFSA’s scientific excellence, and other core values, such as openness, transparency, independence and responsiveness; to optimise the use of European risk assessment capacity across the EU; to develop and harmonise risk assessment methodologies and approaches to assess risks associated with the food chain; and to strengthen the scientific basis for risk assessment and risk monitoring.
This ambitious strategy will ensure that EFSA can continue to support the European food safety system in coming years through up-to-date, science-based risk assessments. In so doing, it contributes to improving the health and welfare of humans and animals as well as plant health. Through its contribution, EFSA fulfills not only its mission to protect consumers but also underpins a regulatory environment for economic operators which is demanding as well as predictable. This fosters technological innovation, thereby supporting sustainable growth.
The strategy also outlines how EFSA can position itself at the forefront of developing and implementing risk and benefit assessment methodologies and practices in Europe and internationally. EFSA will continue to broaden its approach beyond safety to include areas such as health benefits and environmental risk assessment. Leading the way in risk assessment methodology in key areas, EFSA will also support further development of a harmonised and consistent approach for the human health risk assessment of chemical mixtures in food and feed.
Board members adopted the Policy on independence and scientific decision-making processes, which brings together and strengthens all the measures EFSA has put in place to ensure the objectivity of its scientific advice. High-quality scientific outputs require transparent, open and unbiased scientific decision-making processes, all of which are critical in building further trust in EFSA’s scientific work.
The draft was amended to address some of the comments received during a public consultation, including those raised at a Stakeholder Consultative Workshop in October attended by 140 interested parties representing the whole food chain.
The policy identifies areas of improvement, which EFSA will implement in 2012. These include: simplifying and clarifying rules on identifying and handling conflicts of interest; increasing information on how decisions on conflicts of interest are reached by outlining admissible and incompatible interests in a transparent manner; strengthening procedures concerning breach of trust; and amending the definition of conflict of interest to better reflect OECD guidelines.
In addition, as part of EFSA’s effort to increase openness and transparency, the Authority is planning a new initiative in 2012 inviting observers of interested parties to some Panel meetings so that they can witness the risk assessment process taking place.
In its Management Plan for 2012, EFSA highlights its core public health remit reflecting priorities in Europe related to foodborne diseases and nutrition, including among others meat inspection, zoonoses, chemical contaminants such as mercury, dietary reference values and cumulative risk assessment of chemical mixtures. The evaluation of regulated products and claims will continue to be a prominent feature of its work programme supported by the newly created Applications Desk Unit.
In 2012, EFSA will mark its ten year anniversary and in January will move to its new seat in Parma. EFSA will deliver its first multi-annual plan and carry out a review of its scientific cooperation with Member States with a view to adopting a more strategic, multiannual approach, particularly regarding its contracts and grants programme. The external evaluation of EFSA currently in progress will provide future direction for the evolution of EFSA’s working practices and the possible introduction of fees, which is currently being considered by the European Commission. Also in 2012, membership of eight of EFSA’s scientific Panels and its Scientific Committee will be renewed for a three-year term.
 The eight Panels to be renewed are: the Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW); the Panel on Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ); the Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM); the Panel on Plant Health (PLH); the Panel on Additives and Products or Substances used in Animal Feed (FEEDAP); the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA); the Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO); the Panel on Plant Protection Products and their Residues (PPR).
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