EFSA’s scientific output moves up a gear - 5 years of commitment to ensuring Europe’s food is safe -

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its 2007 Annual Report. Scientific output rose by 63% in 2007 compared to 2006 and co-operation with national risk assessment authorities in Member States increased significantly.

2007 also marked 5 years of EFSA as Europe’s food safety risk assessment body, providing the scientific benchmark on which European Union (EU) risk managers based many of their decisions to protect consumers in the EU. During 2007, EFSA’s strategy of communicating its scientific advice to its principal clients and stakeholders and the public at large, helped bridge the gap between science and the consumer, and contributed to building public confidence in the way risks are assessed.

Committed to scientific excellence, independence and transparency, EFSA’s scientific output increased by 63% during 2007 compared to 2006 with just over 200 scientific opinions and around 1,000 assessments of new applications and re-evaluations of previously authorised substances. EFSA has now produced more than 680 scientific opinions since it began work in 2002. At the same time, the number of EFSA staff rose to over 300 and its annual budget increased to over € 50 million.

Commenting on these results, EFSA’s Executive Director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, said: “We have achieved a lot but many challenges still lie ahead. Science, like time doesn’t stand still and EFSA will continue to be at the forefront of scientific risk assessment, taking on some of the most challenging scientific areas, such as biotechnology, animal cloning and nanotechnology. EFSA acknowledges that there are often broader societal, political and economic concerns over some of these sensitive areas and we will continue to listen to these concerns. Nevertheless, EFSA’s advice to risk managers can only continue to be guided by the science.”

As the keystone of EU risk assessment, EFSA provided scientific advice on existing and emerging risks to EU risk managers (European Commission, European Parliament and EU Member States) in close collaboration with national authorities and in open consultation with its stakeholders. In 2007, highlights of its work included:

  • the evaluation of a number of sweeteners, preservatives, colours and smoke flavourings. One evaluation of the food colour “Red 2G” resulted in its immediate ban by EU authorities; 
  • the completion of EU wide comparable surveys for salmonella levels in chickens which will assist the European Commission in setting EU reduction targets;
  • the evaluation of maximum residue levels for over 200 pesticides substances;
  • the evaluation of carcinogenic aflatoxins (toxins produced by moulds found in regions with hot, humid climates) and the first in a series of evaluations of marine biotoxins (found in shellfish);
  • scientific advice to the European Commission on proposed changes to the EU’s BSE rules on the removal of specified risk materials, such as the vertebral column;
  • opinions on bluetongue and avian influenza and 3 other opinions on pig welfare;
  • independent scientific assessment of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) within the framework of co-operation with Member States, transparency and engagement of stakeholders. (In addition to Opinions, activities included a report on the role of animal feeding trials in GMO risk assessment; a special meeting of EFSA’s Advisory Forum with GMO experts from national GMO risk assessment bodies; and a scientific colloquium on GMO environmental risk assessment);

Scientific co-operation with Member States was a top priority in 2007 and EFSA established a network of national Focal Points in order to foster co-operation with national food safety authorities and agencies. EFSA has concluded agreements with all 27 EU Member States establishing Focal Points which act as a contact between EFSA and national authorities supporting EFSA’s Advisory Forum.

During 2007, EFSA made significant progress implementing its core values of visibility, simplicity and coherence in risk communications across Europe. Interest in EFSA’s scientific work grew significantly with a 49% increase in media coverage: over 7,000 articles and audiovisual press coverage were published in 2007. A new website was launched which has helped to further improve access and transparency in communications of EFSA’s scientific work.

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