EFSA now open for business

Following a worldwide call and a rigorous evaluation process, the European Food Safety Authority’s Scientific Committee and panels have been appointed. These have taken over the responsibility for the scientific assessment of food safety issues from the European Commission at the time of their first meetings between 21-27th May.

This is a major milestone in European food safety,’ said Geoffrey Podger, EFSA’s Executive Director. ‘It means that we have arrived at the point where the Authority can begin the core work that it was set up to do, That is; to have the best available scientists working on the most important food safety issues, so that significant improvements can be made to the safety of food in the European Union. That process begins now.’

The Scientific Committee and panels are responsible for providing the scientific opinions of the Authority within their individual areas of competence. If and when appropriate, they can also organise hearings so that broader input can be obtained.

The members of the Scientific Committee and panels have been appointed for a three year term, which is renewable, and the initial list of members is annexed to this press release. In addition, EFSA will have its own scientific staff, and most of these will be recruited in late 2003 and 2004, following the imminent appointment of the Deputy Director (Head of Science). Together, these different scientific elements will give the Authority the flexibility that it needs; to answer the regular questions asked by the main stakeholders; to undertake the necessary strategic work and; to react to short term needs and emergencies.

Background

The Scientific Committee, itself, is composed of the chairs of each of the eight panels plus a number of independent experts. These experts are not members of panels, but collectively possess the most appropriate balance of expertise to support the functioning of the committee. Although the panels primarily operate as independent entities, the committee is responsible for the general coordination necessary to ensure the consistency of the scientific opinion procedure. In this respect, the adoption of working procedures and decisions on the harmonisation of working methods will be of particular importance. The committee will provide opinions on issues which affect more than one panel and on those which do not fall within the competence of any of the panels.

The full list of panels which has been created is as follows:

* Food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food.

* Additives and products or substances used in animal feed.

* Plant health, plant protection products and their residues.

* Genetically modified organisms.

* Dietetic products, nutrition and allergies.

* Biological hazards.

* contaminants in the food chain.

* Animal health and welfare.

The members of the panels are independent scientific experts who have been appointed as a result of a worldwide call for expressions of interest and an extensive evaluation exercise. During the course of time, the number, responsibilities and membership of the panels may be adapted to take into account new developments relating to food safety.