EFSA in 2012: marking the first 10 years, preparing for future challenges
EFSA reached its tenth anniversary in 2012, a landmark year in which it delivered another significant work programme that built on the achievements of the previous decade. EFSA’s Annual Report, which is published today, highlights the progress made last year in key scientific areas such as risk-based approaches to meat inspection, chemical mixtures, and guidelines to assess risks related to animal welfare. The report also outlines progress made in relations with stakeholders, cooperation with partners, and in reinforcing the measures the Authority has in place to ensure the independence of its scientific work.
Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, EFSA’s Executive Director, said: “The past year again illustrated the scale and variety of scientific advice that EFSA is called upon to deliver. We are proud of our achievement over the first 10 years – helping to significantly reduce the number of human Salmonella cases in the EU, assessing more than 3,000 health claims, and re-evaluating the safety of food colours, to name just a few – but conscious that even bigger challenges lie ahead. We must continue to strengthen dialogue with risk managers and build the EU’s risk assessment community, to maintain standards in times of economic austerity, and to deepen public confidence in the food chain. Maintaining the quality of our communication activities will remain central to all these tasks.
“I would like to thank all those who contributed to EFSA’s work in 2012 – scientific experts, partner EU institutions, Member State bodies, stakeholders, scientific organisations and networks, and EFSA staff – without whose support we could not have delivered our ambitious work programme.”
Other highlights of the scientific work programme in 2012 included work on the re-evaluations of the sweetener aspartame and the food contact material bisphenol A; risk assessments of three neonicotinoid pesticides that some studies have linked to a decline in bee numbers; and a number of multidisciplinary projects looking at emerging issues such as low-dose effects and endocrine active substances. In addition, EFSA’s data collection and monitoring work in key areas such as foodborne diseases and pesticide residues in food made an important contribution to the protection of public health.
As well as these scheduled tasks, EFSA responded to requests from the European Commission to provide urgent input on the Schmallenberg virus and Salmonella Stanley and to assess a long-term feeding study of GM maize NK603 and glyphosate.
The Authority’s scientific programme took place in the context of the Science Strategy 2012-2016, which was published in 2012. This ambitious strategy lays out how EFSA, together with risk assessment partners in Member States, will ensure that the Authority can continue to support the European food safety system in the coming years.
The renewal of eight of EFSA’s Panels and its Scientific Committee was another key milestone in 2012. The process represented the first time that EFSA’s new Policy on Independence and Scientific Decision Making and its implementing rules – adopted in February 2012 – were applied. EFSA’s second external evaluation, carried out by Ernst & Young, highlighted that the Authority is fulfilling its mission in line with its Founding Regulation and noted its culture of transparency and the systems it has in place to ensure the impartiality of its advice. To improve accountability and encourage greater understanding of EFSA’s risk assessment work, in 2012 the Authority launched a pilot project that allows interested parties to attend and observe plenary meetings of its scientific panels.
EFSA continued to build stakeholder engagement with the renewal and strengthening of the Stakeholder Consultative Platform, and bolstered its interactions with commercial players through the development of the Applications Desk Unit. A Helpdesk function was launched on EFSA’s website to provide structured guidance to applicants and other stakeholders and enable them to submit questions on the application process. The Authority’s communication specialists collaborated with national food safety authorities to publish guidelines on risk communication that will help to share best practice across Member States.
The tenth anniversary programme activities culminated with two events held in Parma in November which focused on the key scientific and institutional challenges facing the organisation. The scientific event, “Challenging boundaries in risk assessment – sharing experiences”, attracted nearly 600 leading experts in risk assessment from Europe and further afield and provided a stimulating platform for scientists from a range of disciplines relevant to EFSA’s work. Discussions at the second event, a high-level institutional conference, organised jointly with the European Commission’s Directorate General for Health and Consumers (DG SANCO), focused on the continuing importance to Europe of a strong relationship between risk assessor and risk managers.
The year ended with Ms Geslain-Lanéelle welcoming representatives of the EU, the European Parliament, the European Commission the Italian Minister of Health and the Mayor of Parma to the official inauguration of EFSA’s new purpose-built headquarters in Parma. The Authority moved into the building in January 2012.