Engagement with stakeholders is key to EFSA’s work and reflects its commitment to openness, transparency and dialogue.
Who are EFSA’s ‘stakeholders’?
EFSA’s stakeholders are representative organisations that have an interest in the Authority’s work or in the wider food and feed sector. EFSA divides stakeholders into seven major groups:
organisationsOrganisations whose primary objectives are to defend and promote the interests of consumers.
NGOs and advocacy groupsNon-governmental groups that are independent of industry, commerce and business and which have as their primary objectives and activities the promotion of environmental protection or the health and safety of consumers. Advocacy groups may be concerned with broader, horizontal issues not directly related to food safety such as the place of science in policy-making or transparency in public administration.
Business and food industryAssociations representing the interests of companies operating in any industry sector relevant to the work of EFSA.
Distributors and HORECAOrganisations representing the interests of stakeholders involved in preparing, distributing and serving food, such as wholesalers, retailers, hotels, restaurants and caterers (HORECA).
Practitioners’ associationsOrganisations representing professionals working in fields relevant to EFSA’s food safety and public health remit, such as medical doctors, dieticians, nurses, pharmacists and veterinarians.
Groups that represent scientific and technological communities, including scientific societies, universities, research institutes or other groups of academics.
Farmers and primary producersOrganisations representing those at the beginning of the food chain. These may include, for example, associations of farmers, fishermen, foresters, breeders, beekeepers and horticulturalists.
How can stakeholders engage with EFSA?
EFSA has reviewed the way it engages with its stakeholders, to ensure EFSA can efficiently meet its mandate to improve food safety and public health and to ensure a high level of consumer protection in line with societal expectations of accountability and transparency.
The revised approach is set out in EFSA’s Stakeholder Engagement Approach. Some of the bodies and platforms envisaged in the document are new and be operational by 2017, while others are already in place.
Registered stakeholders will be able to engage with EFSA through a combination of standing and ad-hoc platforms, according to their interests and expertise. There will be two standing bodies:
Members of the Stakeholder Forum will provide strategic input to EFSA’s work plans and future priorities on an annual basis. The themes and topics of each annual forum will be suggested by registered stakeholders and by the priority areas identified by EFSA.
The Stakeholder Bureau will advise EFSA on stakeholder engagement and dialogue on civil society’s concerns regarding health, the environment, food production and other issues in the Authority’s remit. It will also help shape the agenda of the Stakeholder Forum. It will be made up of seven representatives of the stakeholder groups listed above, proposed by the stakeholders themselves to act in the interests of the stakeholder category they represent.
In addition to the two standing bodies, EFSA will have a number of targeted platforms through which to engage with stakeholders on technical issues. These are:
Mandate working groups
These will ensure that EFSA engages in meaningful dialogue and capture societal needs and expectations at an early stage of the development of its self-tasks and guidance documents. A pilot for this engagement platform is scheduled in early 2017.
Colloquia, which started in 2004, enable EFSA to tap into the expertise of the wide scientific community and thus prepare for future risk assessment challenges.
These will act as “learning systems” that allow EFSA to capitalise on stakeholders’ specialist knowledge in specific areas, e.g. developing efficient and harmonised data collection systems, methodological approaches, and identification of new or emerging issues.
These will address issues raised by environmental NGOs and advocacy groups and industry stakeholders on aspects of EFSA’s work, further understanding of EFSA’s risk assessment processes, and facilitate submission of information and responses to EFSA’s calls and consultations.
The “lab” will be a way of eliciting feedback and input from communication practitioners working for different stakeholders to increase the accessibility, visibility and use of EFSA communications. A pilot for this engagement platform is scheduled in late 2016.
These will provide opportunities to increase knowledge of EFSA’s work among different groups of stakeholders, encourage dialogue, and share real-world experiences, ultimately enhancing the understanding of EFSA’s scientific work.