Five years on, EFSA looks to the future

The Summit on Food Safety organised today in Brussels by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), jointly with the Portuguese Presidency and the European Commission, marks the first five years since the agency was created. EFSA brought together decision makers from European institutions, EU Member States and stakeholders to debate the future of food and feed safety in Europe. The Summit closed a week’s activities kicked off by a Scientific Forum covering scientific issues from chemical and biological risks to nanotechnology.

Since EFSA’s foundation, much has changed in food and feed safety. The Summit provided an opportunity for key decision makers and actors in the EU food safety system, to reflect on experience gained over the past five years and to consider a number of recommendations for the years ahead.

Europe’s food safety watchdog is in a strong position to assist risk managers in developing co-ordinated policies regarding food and feed safety. EFSA provides independent scientific advice and clear communications to all interested parties on existing and emerging risks. EFSA aims to deliver the best science at the right time and in the most appropriate manner. This can only be achieved through effective pooling of the wide scientific expertise available in Europe and beyond. EFSA’s workload is on the increase. EFSA’s scientific co-operation strategy with Member States will further enhance both the quality and the efficiency of the EU risk assessment system.

EFSA’s goal is to become globally recognised as the European reference body for risk assessment in food and feed safety, animal health and welfare, nutrition, plant protection and plant health. To this end, EFSA is pursuing its international outreach and has signed an information exchange agreement with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to facilitate co-operation. The Authority intends to follow this approach with other organisations beyond the EU, such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Assisted by some of the best scientific minds in Europe, EFSA will carry on providing advice arising from its core work, including food additives and food contact materials, biological hazards, contaminants, GMOs, nutrition, animal health and welfare, plant protection and plant health.

EFSA is also geared up to prepare for future challenges and emerging risks, working closely with national food authorities and sharing information with stakeholders and international partners beyond Europe’s borders.

And it is with an eye to the future that EFSA is taking on new scientific tasks in 2008 to support the European Commission in the field of nutrition.  EFSA will provide scientific advice on nutrition and health claims to ensure that these are based on sound science. This advice will help risk managers protect consumers in authorising claims which are both meaningful and accurate.

Among those opinions, EFSA demonstrated its vigilance by providing swift advice on the safety of goat meat and milk following the first, and what proved to be the only case, of BSE in a goat in 2005.

Thanks to the EU food safety system in place, European consumers are amongst the best protected and best informed in the world as regards risks in the food chain. As an independent source of scientific advice and communications, EFSA looks forward to strengthening its outreach to EU citizens through close co-operation with all actors involved.

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