Open EFSA

Openness and transparency are fundamental aspects of EFSA’s work and are enshrined in the Authority’s founding regulation (articles 38 and 39). These core values are critical as they provide a framework that promotes confidence in the work of EFSA among consumers and other stakeholders.

Openness and transparency mean that EFSA is able to meet the legitimate need of stakeholders to understand the basis for risk assessment. These values also allow for an informed debate, both among experts and in the media, on sensitive and important scientific issues within the remit of EFSA.

Examples of the Authority’s commitment to openness and transparency are diverse and cover many aspects of EFSA’s daily work. Scientific opinions as well as the agendas and minutes of meetings and other key documents are published on its website. To maximise transparency, EFSA broadcasts important meetings and events through its website. The Authority regularly opens meetings of its Scientific Committee and Panels to observers.

EFSA listens to the views of outside parties, particularly its stakeholders. Many stakeholder groups have a close interest in EFSA’s work - from the food industry to environmental and consumer groups. EFSA proactively seeks their input and exchanges different points of view, especially through its Stakeholder Consultative Platform and an annual Stakeholder Conference. EFSA also canvases feedback from outside parties by holding open consultations via the EFSA website, face-to-face meetings, information sessions organised by the Applications Helpdesk and multilateral discussions at scientific conferences and seminars.

To date EFSA has launched around 100 public consultations on its scientific opinions and guidance documents: on issues such as the risk assessment of GMOs, pesticides and nanotechnology; methodologies for conducting environmental risk assessment of genetically modified animals, and a consultation on the scientific and technical guidance for the preparation and presentation of the application for authorisation of a health claim. As part of the public consultation on its draft risk assessment of aspartame, EFSA published a full list of over 600 studies and unpublished scientific data that were made available to the Authority.

Transparency Initiative

EFSA is committed to ensuring a high level of openness and transparency in its work. In January 2013, the Authority launched an initiative designed to facilitate access to data and enhance transparency in risk assessment. The transparency initiative is in line with EFSA’s Science Strategy for 2012-2016 which highlights the importance of the Authority’s role in making data accessible to interested parties. The project also addresses the recommendation made by stakeholders in an external evaluation in 2012 that EFSA further enhance transparency in its decision-making processes.

EFSA is currently developing a new policy on transparency and its creation is the centrepiece of the transparency initiative. This milestone policy will help to further build understanding of the Authority’s work. As part of its commitment to engagement, EFSA held a conference with stakeholders in October 2013 to discuss how transparency in EFSA’s risk assessment process could be enhanced further. The event – called Transparency in Risk Assessment – built on previous discussion held with the Stakeholder Platform. The conference aimed to ensure that the views of civil society stakeholders, such as consumer groups, industry associations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), are considered as EFSA develops the new policy on transparency. It also considered how EFSA’s information and communication activities could be further enhanced to support transparency in the risk assessment process.