With the launch of its Applications Helpdesk Unit, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is taking a major step forward in enhancing the service it provides to EU Member States, its other partners in the EU and applicants. The Authority aims to contribute to safe innovation in the agrofood sector by facilitating increased understanding of its risk assessment work and requirements to enter the EU food chain. EFSA is also streamlining its procedures for dealing with the evaluation of regulated substances, products and health claims.
Science and innovation are key drivers of economic competitiveness, as recognised by the EU’s “Europe 2020” growth strategy. The EU agrofood sector is worth over €900 billion annually to the EU economy and employs some 4.4 million people. As Europe’s food safety watchdog, EFSA is uniquely placed to provide the scientific expertise needed to protect consumers and enable innovation. More transparency about how EFSA carries out its risk assessments and further clarifying how applicants submit information, can support growth and enhance competitiveness.
Since 2003, the number of annual requests received by EFSA for applications-related evaluations has increased considerably. These now account for 40% of the Authority’s resources, twice the 2008 level, and as many as two-thirds of its scientific outputs.
Per Bergman, Acting Director of EFSA’s Scientific Evaluation of Regulated Products Directorate, explained the organisation’s response to this evolving situation: “The Authority has established the Applications Helpdesk to act as a ‘front office’ and ‘support desk’, providing information and support for applicants, Member States, stakeholders and other interested parties. Our first major initiative is the launch of a new service on EFSA’s website where users can access information about applications and submit specific questions related to the legal and technical requirements for evaluations.” In the future, the Applications Helpdesk Unit will also be responsible within EFSA for centralising and processing the initial administrative steps of all applications.
Recent legislative changes in the EU mean that EFSA’s work on the evaluation of regulated substances is likely to continue to grow; a large number of new applications, for example for feed additives, food enzymes and flavourings, is expected in the coming years, while the assessment of other types of applications is becoming more complex. The Applications Helpdesk Unit will enable EFSA to provide a streamlined service to applicants and other interested parties in this changing environment.
Within the context of EU market authorisation requirements, EFSA is requested to scientifically evaluate a wide range of substances and products intended for use in the food chain, as well as the scientific substantiation of health claims made in relation to food. In this context, interested economic operators, applicants, must submit dossiers for evaluation to EFSA. These evaluations relate to applications for new authorisations, the renewal of existing authorisations as well as proposed new uses for existing authorisations.