Food safety and security

EESC opinion: Food safety and security

Key points

This opinion deals with two slightly different subjects, which nevertheless have a common denominator: reassuring European society about the availability of safe food.

The EU has put in place a robust system to prevent risks associated with the entry of new products, including chemical products, into the food chain. At an institutional level, the European Commission (DG Santé) is responsible for risk management, whilst the EFSA, the European agency with authority for technical matters, is responsible for risk assessment. Implementation of the new system has already yielded some reassuring results for consumers: for example, following in-depth assessments, the number of pesticides authorised in the EU fell dramatically between 2000 and 2008 (from 1 000 to 250). However, it is a worrying development for farmers, who are beginning to feel the effects of the absence of active substances allowing them to carry out pest control. Paradoxically, many of these molecules which are banned in the EU are permitted in third countries which export their produce to the European market.

The EESC believes that the EFSA has proved that it is competent throughout its existence. There is no doubt that it plays a very important role in preventing health risks in Europe. Thanks to the EFSA, the EU has one of the most effective systems for protecting public health in the world.

The EFSA assessment is based on a scientific study which should demonstrate that a particular product is harmless. Under current legislation, this baseline study has to be presented by the requesting party, i.e. the company wishing to put the product on the market. This in itself offers little in the way of reassurance because the findings of scientific studies can differ radically depending on their sources of funding.