Piloting a process for Emerging Risks Identification: Lessons learnt and next steps
A process for ERI was trialled and further developed between 2010-2012 by the Emerging Risks unit which has the responsibility of coordinating EFSA’s activities to establish a capacity for emerging risks identification (ERI). This included the implementation of an operational process for ERI, the assessment of selected data sources, the testing of tools for collecting information, the consolidation of knowledge networks for sharing information, and the development of a methodological framework. Using an expert judgment approach, specific issues were identified for follow-up activities including 4 outsourced projects (i.e. impact of climate change on aflatoxin emergence in cereal crops, omics technologies in risk assessment, a European-wide survey on energy drink consumption, and developing approaches for assessing human health risks from exposure to multiple chemical residues), 3 internal task forces (i.e. bee health, emerging tools and methods for hazard assessment, and chemical mixtures), and 2 reports on trade and food prices. These follow-up activities will contribute to the determination of whether the issues identified are indeed emerging risks. The issues prioritised were identified mainly from the scientific literature and expert networks. Overall, our experience shows that ERI requires a high level of expertise due to major data gaps and uncertainties in the evaluation process. Effective networking has proven to be essential for exchanging methods, data and evaluations of emerging risks. The system piloted has shown some potential for the identification of issues that may give rise to emerging risks, and useful knowledge has been gained in gathering and filtering large amounts of information, and building knowledge networks on emerging risks. Next steps include the establishment of a standing working group of the Scientific Committee on emerging risks, the reinforcement of the engagement with Member States and Stakeholders, the fine tuning of the methodological framework, and the completion of the projects on the issues identified.