European Food Safety Authority: Director in place, many challenges ahead

The European public looks with much expectation to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) as Geoffrey Podger, the executive director, takes up office on 3 February 2003.

The EFSA will have the following main tasks:

  • At the request of the Commission, European Parliament and the Member States, the EFSA is to provide independent scientific advice on food safety issues, including related matters, such as GMOs and nutrition to serve as a basis for risk management decisions;
  • Advise on technical food issues to underpin policy development and legislation related to food chain;
  • Collection and analysis of data on dietary and exposure information relevant to any potential risks necessary to monitor safety along the food chain in the EU;
  • Identification and early warning of emerging risks;
  • Support the Commission in crisis situations;
  • Commununication to the general public.

 

The European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC)is a strong supporter of a Europe-wide agency to monitor food safety, especially in view of EU enlargement, the growing incidence of diet-related diseases, as well as newly emerging hazards. While welcoming the new Executive Director, BEUC warns that the success of EFSA will much depend on its recognition by the public, for which it must operate openly, transparently and involving consumers in all aspects of its work.

 

The BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) crisis, the dioxin crisis in Belgium, the dispute regarding hormones and the introduction of GMOs has created uncertainty among European consumers with regard to the safety of their food. Even more importantly, the public in one Member State have lost confidence in the food safety systems of other Member States. The creation of the EFSA (by regulation EC 178/2002, 28 January 2002) responded to these fears.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was established to provide independent scientific advice and support, as well as to set up a network for close cooperation with similar bodies in the Member States. EFSA operates as a separate legal entity, independent from the other EU institutions. Its objective is to provide the general public with information about food risks.

The Authority comprises four bodies. TheManagement Boardincludes a Commission representative and 14 members, appointed by the Council after consulting the European Parliament. TheAdvisory Forumis composed of 15 representatives, one from each Member State, from national agencies performing risk assessments in the food sector. The eightScientific Panelsgather independent scientific experts selected via an open call for expressions of interest. The task of the Scientific Committee is to ensure general coordination to ensure the consistency in the scientific opinions of the panels. TheExecutive Directoris responsible for the day to day management of the Authority and is answerable to the Management Board. The Executive Director, Geoffrey Podger, took up office on 3 February.

 

The EFSA is currently recruiting members for the scientific committee and the scientific panel with 14 March deadline.

 

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