Creating a European network to enhance risk assessments regarding the food chain: where does EFSA’s Advisory Forum stand today?

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Advisory Forum launched today its first public event to encourage dialogue and debate on future perspectives in European risk assessment regarding food and feed safety. Over 350 participants have gathered in Berlin to hear expert views and participate in discussions on European co-operation in risk assessment, at a premiere event hosted by the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

In an opening speech, Prof Andreas Hensel, President of the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR) welcomed participants and outlined the importance of such a gathering of experts to further advance the science of risk assessment.

Geoffrey Podger, EFSA’s Executive Director and Chair of EFSA’s Advisory Forum, emphasised the need for close collaboration between EFSA and national food safety authorities in Member States in order to fully protect consumer interests. “Food scares know no political boundaries,” stated Geoffrey Podger, “and it is our collective responsibility to ensure the highest level of scientific advice. The ambition of the Advisory Forum is indeed to establish a successful European partnership in risk assessment and risk communications. I am delighted that this event will provide a platform for presenting the work of the Advisory Forum since its establishment in March 2003 and discussing future developments.”

“Science is at the heart of EFSA’s Advisory Forum discussions,” explained Dr. Herman Koëter – Deputy Executive Director and Director of Science, EFSA. “At this conference, experts will exchange views regarding progress in risk assessment methodologies and approaches. Establishing strong European expert networks is critical in order to more effectively address the challenges of today, enhance our ability to identify new emerging risks and prepare ourselves collectively for the unexpected.”

How can we weigh risks and benefits? On the second day of the Advisory Forum event, Dr Ada Knaap, Vice-Chair, EFSA Scientific Committee, will lead a round table discussion on how to best integrate the evaluation of benefits in risk assessment, as well as implications arising both for scientists and communications to the public. Topical subjects to be addressed include: risk perception and implications of risk-benefit assessments for risk analysis (Professor Ortwin Renn, University of Stuttgart); GMOs and food (Professor Maxime Schwartz, AFSSA); risks and benefits of fish consumption (Dr. Diane Bedford, UK FSA); and fortification of foods with folic acid (Professor Albert Flynn, Chair EFSA Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies).

Through ongoing collaboration and organisation of public events such as these, EFSA and its Advisory Forum aim to reinforce existing links between national food safety authorities and more generally, facilitate the exchange of information on risk assessment issues. A major purpose of the Advisory Forum event is to prepare for the 2005 review of EFSA which will look at internal efficiencies as well as the Authority’s broader mission and role, and whether any adjustments to these need to be made.

Notes to editors

Conference Contributors:
Geoffrey Podger - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, EFSA
Dr. Herman Köeter – DEPUTY DIRECTOR AND DIRECTOR OF SCIENCE, EFSA
Doctor Ada Knaap - VICE-CHAIR, SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE, EFSA
Professor Jean-Louis Jouve – FORMER CHIEF, FOOD QUALITY AND STANDARDS SERVICE, FOOD AND NUTRITION DIVISION, FAO;
Professor Victor J. Feron – INSTITUTE FOR RISK ASSESSMENT SERVICES, UNIVERSITY OF UTRECHT, THE NETHERLANDS
Professor Vittorio Silano – CHAIR, SCIENTIFIC COMMITTEE, EFSA
Dr Diane Benford – FOOD STANDARDS AGENCY, UK
Professor Albert Flynn – CHAIR, SCIENTIFIC PANEL AND DIETETIC PRODUCTS, NUTRITION AND ALLERGIES, EFSA
Professor Ortwin Renn – DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, STUTTGART UNIVERSITY, GERMANY
Professor Maxime Schwartz – AGENCE FRANÇAISE DE SECURITE SANITAIRE DES ALIMENTS (AFSSA)
Dr Mária Szeitzné Szabó - NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF FOOD HYGIENE AND NUTRITION, HUNGARY
Dr Coen van Kreijl - NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR PUBLIC HEALTH AND THE ENVIRONMENT (RIVM) OF THE NETHERLANDS

The Advisory Forum: The Advisory Forum is the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) consultative body and was created in March 2003. It is composed of representatives from the competent bodies of the 25 Member States which undertake tasks similar to those of the Authority (e.g. national agencies responsible for risk assessments regarding food and feed safety) as well as from Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. A representative of the European Commission also participates in meetings of the Advisory Forum. It provides a unique forum for discussions between the national food safety agencies across Europe where information can be shared and emerging problems identified.

Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR), Berlin, Germany

EFSA Stakeholder Colloque: Following the Advisory Forum event, EFSA will organise its 2nd Stakeholder Colloque which will take place on 9 and 10 November in Berlin. Moving forward from the colloque held last year in Ostend, EFSA has invited stakeholders to review the impact of actions taken thus far to involve interested parties in its activities and will explore the further development of its policies towards stakeholders.  Further details regarding the stakeholder colloque and its programme .

Further information available to the media regarding the advisory forum event:

- Conference Abstracts: Abstracts relating to the conference sessions
- Conference Newsletter: Special edition of the newsletter will be produced containing key information from the conference.

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