New year, new challenges

EFSA is gearing up for a busy 2014, with more than 670 scientific outputs scheduled for completion this year. Among the highlights of the work programme will be the delivery of opinions and reports on issues of key public health importance such as: exposure to acrylamide in food; allergens in food; dietary reference values for vitamins and minerals; exposure to caffeine; and the threat posed by pathogens found in food of non-animal origin such as Salmonella and norovirus.

This year’s work programme will be carried out in the context of EFSA’s first Multiannual Plan (MAP), covering the period 2014-2016. The aim of the multiannual approach is to help the Authority to work more closely and effectively with stakeholders, Member States and the wider European risk assessment community  

Dr. Bernhard Url, EFSA’s Acting Executive Director, said: “EFSA’s work programme for 2014-2016 illustrates the challenges Europe faces from an increasingly complex food chain and also our commitment to continuing to protect our citizens with robust scientific advice.

“It highlights the various steps we are taking to strengthen trust in the EU food safety system and to increase the efficiency of our working practices in the face of ongoing resource restrictions. In this regard, we are well positioned to build on existing cooperation and collaborative initiatives across Europe to make the best use of finite resources.

“The coming years will not always be predictable, but with the valued support of our experts, scientific networks, national authorities, partner institutions, and staff we will continue to ensure that European food remains the safest in the world.”

Other highlights of EFSA’s scientific programme in 2014 will include:

  • The continuation of the Authority’s multidisciplinary work on bee health. A report will be published identifying data gaps and proposing ways of improving and harmonising risk assessment in this wide-ranging area. In addition, EFSA’s pesticide experts will carry out further assessments of the potential risks posed to bees by the neonicotinoid substances thiamethoxam, clothianidin and imidacloprid.
  • In the area of animal health, delivery of a final report on the Schmallenberg virus and update of the 2010 scientific opinion on African Swine Fever.
  • Further evaluation of molecular typing methodologies for major food-borne microbiological hazards to support the investigation of outbreaks and improve surveillance.
  • Scheduling of about 40 plant pest risk assessments that are expected to be requested under the European Commission’s new plant health framework.
  • Publication of an analysis of the relationship between consumption of antimicrobials and antimicrobial resistance, in collaboration with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency.

Evaluations of products that are potentially destined for European markets will continue to occupy a large part of EFSA’s human and financial resources, with a focus this year on food enzymes. EFSA aims to make the evaluation process more efficient by introducing an electronic application management tool development of which will continue in 2014 following the successful completion of a feasibility study last year.

Data collection will be to the fore as EFSA continues to position itself as the hub of European food safety data networks. As part of this strategy, work will continue on the development of a data “warehouse”, which will make relevant data more accessible to Member States and stakeholders.

An ongoing strategic objective for EFSA is to build and maintain trust in its scientific work. Many initiatives have already been taken in relation to transparency, openness, independence and communication. The Authority will continue to strengthen these key building blocks of trust by, for instance, continuing its policy of opening up meetings of Scientific Panels to observers and improving access to data.

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