EFSA plans greater public involvement in its work

"The recommendations arose as a result of input received at a recent meeting with representatives of consumer and industrial organisations," said EFSA Management Board chairman, Stuart Slorach. "I am particularly pleased with the outcome, which will play an important part in the development and implementation of our approach to public involvement. However, this was only one of the issues discussed at our Board meeting today. Importantly, we also had the opportunity to review the 2004 work programme, which shows the way that the Authority will develop next year."

Background

The European Food Safety Authority held a ‘Colloque’ style event in Ostend, Belgium on 23/24 October 2003. The purpose of the event was to identify ways in which EFSA can work best with consumers and industry to contribute to improved EU food safety and, as a result of the discussions, many different ideas were put forward. The Management Board has now agreed a number of decisions following the meeting.

The decision to set up an EFSA stakeholder forum is an important development. It will enable a formal means of information exchange, although the operating procedures have yet to be finalised.

Scientific meetings are the core of the Authority’s work and scientific independence is the most important underlying principle. Ways are being sought to improve openness by allowing stakeholders to provide input. However, it is of fundamental importance that this is done without a negative impact on the independence of the scientists’ work or on the meeting of deadlines for opinions. In particular, the concept of holding public hearings on key scientific issues is being explored together with the possibility of consulting on certain scientific opinions in draft.

In addition to the webstreaming, which has been undertaken at all Board meetings held so far, the Board agreed, in principle, to allow individuals to attend. This will start during 2004.

Participants at the Ostend meeting also gave strong support to the Board’s policy of ensuring balance in the work programme; thus ensuring the consideration of wider scientific issues as well as answering specific scientific questions. In addition, they agreed with EFSA that consideration should be given to the wider involvement of stakeholders in risk communication. EFSA will also issue an electronic newsletter from March 2004 as part of a broader initiative to expand and improve its electronic communications via the website. A fuller account of the proceedings at the Ostend event is currently being drafted and will soon be made publicly available on the EFSA website.

The 2004 Management Plan was discussed extensively at the meeting, a key element of which is the EFSA scientific work programme. This document is the basis for the Authority’s €28 million budget for 2004 which was adopted at the meeting. It was adopted on the basis of EFSA having134 established staff by the end of 2004. The Management Plan will be discussed further at the January meeting.

The recorded proceedings and papers relating to the meeting can be found on the Authority’s website.