Focal Point Activities 2012

Question Number
8 April 2013
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All Member States, as well as Norway and Iceland, have renewed their Focal Point Agreements in 2012. The Focal Point network has further grown in 2012 due to the entry of the EU candidate country Serbia, as an observer. The acceding EU country Croatia and three other EU candidate countries - Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey - continued to actively participate in the activities and meetings of the Focal Point network.

During 2012 Focal Points continued to collect and share information amongst themselves and with EFSA on a variety of issues on risk assessment or data collection. The overall number of requests for assistance and input has increased over the past 5 years, reaching 155 requests in 2012, reflecting the consolidation and growing importance of the Focal Point network. Sixteen Focal Points have shared information on planned work and activities with other Member States and EFSA, contributing to a more coordinated planning of risk assessment and data collection activities in the EU.

At the end of December 2012, the Information Exchange Platform contained over 1296 documents uploaded by Member States, EEA/EFTA countries and Pre-Accession countries. This included risk assessment outputs (83%) and mandates (5.3%), country specific profiles (5%), and annual and strategic work plans (6.7%). As a general recommendation, efforts should be made to stimulate all official risk assessment bodies operating at national level in the area of food and feed safety risk assessment to upload relevant documents onto the Information Exchange Platform.

Focal Points have further strengthened the Article 36 network of organisations. They have promoted the growth of the network, with five new organisations being included on the list. Focal Points have encouraged listed organisations to apply for calls for proposals, by publishing calls in newsletters and explaining the application process at dedicated events and meetings. Focal Points have also supported EFSA in ensuring that the Article 36 list is kept up-to-date and functional, contributing to a total of 81 changes in terms of contact details and structural changes occurring in the Article 36 organisations.

EFSA’s Expert Database has continued to grow consistently in 2012. By year end, almost 4000 experts had submitted an application to the database and over 3300 were included. Focal Points played an important role for this growth by presenting, distributing or publishing information, as well as directly encouraging scientists to apply to EFSA’s Expert Database. Focal Points have also used and promoted the database as a source of scientific expertise available for use at national level.

During 2012, 27 Focal Points reported to have consolidated and further expanded their national target audiences to which they have disseminated EFSA and own information/communication materials. Similarly, 28 Focal Points established dedicated institutional WebPages and produced printed or digital outreach materials, allowing for an increased awareness and understanding of EFSA’s work. These activities often resulted from a strong collaboration between Focal Points and the respective Advisory Forum Communications Working Group representatives at national level.

In 2012, 23 Focal Points organised 47 events in their countries, which ranged from small targeted national seminars to international conferences. Most of these events concerned specific scientific topics, while making a reference to the celebration of EFSA’s 10th anniversary. Furthermore, 23 Focal Points have contributed to national and international events with over 95 presentations, posters and written contributions. All of these activities have raised the visibility of the Focal Point network and of EFSA’s work.

The first set of BTSF training courses on principles and methods of food safety risk assessment were initiated during the course of 2012. Focal Points have actively disseminated information on these courses within the relevant national organisations and cooperated with the national BTSF contact points in the identification of candidates, contributing to ensure a more uniform and harmonised practice for risk assessment.

To further consolidate the scientific cooperation between Member States and EFSA, the following Focal Point priorities shall be continued in 2013:

  1. Exchange of relevant scientific information and planning of risk assessment activities via the Information Exchange Platform, email and national websites;
  2. Promotion of EFSA’s database of external scientific experts, including its use at national level as a cooperation tool;
  3. Extension of national target audiences in cooperation with the Members of the Advisory Forum Communications Working group, allowing for EFSA’s entire remit to be covered;
  4. Development of Focal Point and national websites as an important communication tool for national and EFSA’s risk assessment activities;
  5. Promotion of training on food safety risk assessment at national level by liaising directly with the national BTSF contact points.

In addition, the following new priorities are proposed to Focal Points for 2013:

  1. Contribute to the five year review of EFSA’s Focal Point network;
  2. Contribute to the five year review of EFSA’s database of external scientific experts;
  3. Contribute to the review of the Article 36 list, namely by promoting new organizations to be designated, by looking into organizations that could be withdrawn from the list, and by requesting organizations to keep their profile data up-to-date;
  4. Improve the liaising and communication between EFSA and Focal Points, and as well, at national level, between Focal Points and Member States’ representatives of EFSA’s Scientific Networks;
  5. Actively support EFSA ad-hoc requests on priority issues e.g. calls for the Scientific Committee and Panels, national events on specific topics, acting as “EFSA Ambassadors”.
11 April 2013