EFSA doubles output in 2008 and expands scientific cooperation

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published its Annual Report for 2008 – a year in which it doubled its scientific output, launched its 5-year Strategic Plan and significantly expanded scientific networks for sharing and exchanging information across Europe and beyond. EFSA in 2008 finalised 489 scientific opinions, reports, guidance documents and statements. Scientific cooperation networks were expanded to include 1,200 experts, 30 national food safety bodies and 400 scientific organisations. EFSA Focal Points were also established in all 27 EU Member States.

“EFSA is also making great strides in improving scientific independence and quality, efficiency and responsiveness. This is helping to ensure that risk managers in the Commission and in the Member States receive the best possible scientific advice in a timely manner,” Management Board chair Diána Bánáti said in the Annual Report.

EFSA also mapped out its future direction, priorities and organisation in its Strategic Plan for 2009-2013 to prepare Europe’s food safety watchdog for the challenges ahead in the medium and long term, such as emerging risks, climate change and globalisation. EFSA teamed up with the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organisation last year to take part in a seminar on the health impact of climate change on food and water safety and nutrition.

Commenting on the Annual Report, EFSA’s Executive Director, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, said: “2008 was a year of growth and consolidation for EFSA. The impressive increase in our scientific output was partly due to efficiency gains and increased resources, but above all to the quality and dedication of EFSA’s experts, partners and staff. Furthermore, the increase in quantity has not come at the expense of quality. In line with our commitment to scientific excellence and transparency, we introduced internal reviews of our scientific outputs in 2008.”

EFSA’s workforce continued to grow in 2008, with 63% of its 395 employees engaged in scientific activities. Two new scientific panels were created and seven new members were elected to the Authority’s Management Board. Ms Bánáti was also elected as Management Board Chair.

Fast-track procedures were implemented on a number of occasions in 2008 enabling the Authority to provide urgent scientific advice to Europe’s decision makers on such issues as melamine in Chinese milk products, the contamination of Ukrainian sunflower oil and dioxins in Irish pork.

Among the scientific highlights of 2008 were Panel opinions on the implications of animal cloning on food safety, animal health and welfare; the role of food in conferring antimicrobial resistance to humans; the safety assessment of active substances in pesticides; the risk assessment of substances added to food such as aluminium and food colours and evaluations of the safety of flavourings.

By the end of 2008, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) had begun issuing opinions on claims related to disease reduction and child development or health, and claims based on newly developed scientific evidence. EFSA by year end had received a total of 4,185 main health claims entries.

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