EFSA reports on progress of Applications helpdesk, highlights future initiatives
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is delivering an update to mark the first anniversary of its Applications helpdesk set up to provide support, advice and information to applicants, Member States and stakeholders.
The innovative service, which is delivered by a dedicated unit within EFSA, was unveiled in November 2011. It is a one-stop shop for those with questions on applications for the authorisation of regulated products, substances and processes, as well as the validation of claims about food. Under European law many food and feed products must be risk assessed before they can be permitted for use on the market.
During a productive first 12 months, the helpdesk has responded to hundreds of queries received through the EFSA website in a range of areas including food ingredients, GMOs, feed additives, nutrition and food contact materials. More than half these inquiries came from industry. The Applications helpdesk has hosted information exchange sessions with stakeholders as part of an ongoing drive to strengthen cooperation. By the end of the year, four ‘Information Sessions on Applications’ with stakeholders will have been held, while a further seven are already in the pipeline for 2013.
The helpdesk has also become the central administrative processing hub for newly-submitted dossiers to the Authority. This has lightened the workload on EFSA’s scientific units, enabling them to further focus their expertise on science-based risk assessment.
Service and innovation
Per Bergman, who heads EFSA’s Scientific Evaluation of Regulated Products Directorate, said: “The Applications helpdesk has heightened our capacity to provide a streamlined, customer-focussed framework to inform and guide applicants. Thus it is supporting innovation in the European Union.
“But this is just the beginning as there is real potential to develop the service further. Going forward, we are determined to reach more applicants and stakeholders and in new ways. As importantly, we want to broaden the range of those who find our service relevant and useful. For example, the Applications helpdesk will, among other things, be focussing on how to better meet the needs of Europe’s Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the coming year.”
EFSA is looking at creating a specialised SME office within the Applications helpdesk and developing a dedicated section on the website for this vital sector of the economy. Further, as part of its overall aim to support innovation and reduce administration, a feasibility study is now underway to assess how applicants could submit application dossiers online.
The Applications helpdesk will also carry out a survey next year to give stakeholders the opportunity to suggest services they would like to see rolled out in future. This will allow EFSA to better target the support it offers and to tailor services for different areas of regulated products. From 2014, EFSA will conduct an annual satisfaction survey to ensure continuous service enhancement.