Implementation of systematic reviews in EFSA scientific outputs workflow
The present document has been produced and adopted by the bodies identified above as author(s). This task has been carried out exclusively by the author(s) in the context of a contract between the European Food Safety Authority and the author(s), awarded following a tender procedure. The present document is published complying with the transparency principle to which the Authority is subject. It may not be considered as an output adopted by the Authority. The European food Safety Authority reserves its rights, view and position as regards the issues addressed and the conclusions reached in the present document, without prejudice to the rights of the authors.
Systematic reviews (SR) are an evidence synthesis approach that provides robust and transparent answers to clearly formulated questions. Originally developed for use in clinical practice, SRs have wider applicability, including food and feed safety risk assessment. EFSA has implemented the use of SRs, and this document contributes to the further development of this in-house capacity. Since the publication of the document “Application of Systematic Review Methodology to Food and Feed Safety Assessments to Support Decision Making”, which mainly focuses on interventions and exposures (PECO/PICO), little has changed in this arena. Fast increasing fields of application include chemical and environmental risk assessment, and analysing environmental management interventions. Considering time constraints at EFSA, the use of SRs should be pursued thoughtfully. Important are the use of explicit systematic methods aimed at minimising bias and maximising transparency in order to produce the most reliable findings that can be used to inform decision making. Participants of the training courses indicated SRs should be a priority for controversial topics (which might be subject to greater scrutiny by external parties, including the public, and thereby would benefit from maximum transparency) or topics for which there was disagreement amongst experts. Some areas addressed by EFSA have considerable potential impact, for example related to public health or animal trade, and these topics could be prioritised for SR. Under severe time constraints, a full SR may not be possible, but a rapid review can be considered. However rapid reviews are not a substitute for systematic reviews. Adoption of rapid reviews exchanges one set of concerns (time and resources contracts) for another (lack of robustness and comprehensiveness). In the view of the Consortium, the continuation of training opportunities is important. Appropriate commissioning of SR expertise is an important step in establishing the role of the methodology in EFSA risk assessments.