Transparency in scientific assessments and governance of EFSA

EESC opinion: Transparency in scientific assessments and governance of EFSA

Key points:

  • The EESC has always been a proponent of an EU policy to protect health throughout the food chain at every stage of production, from farmer to consumer. This policy should avoid contamination and food risks with a view to promoting safety and hygiene and clear, transparent and safe product information.
  • The EESC supports the Commission's initiatives aimed at addressing the challenges of transparency, sustainability and effectiveness in the entire food supply chain monitoring system to help give the public, the media and civil society as a whole a better perception of reliability and safety.
  • The EESC strongly advocates the need to strengthen EFSA to make sure risk managers have the best possible scientific advice through clear and transparent communication and to ensure greater cooperation with the Member States and other bodies operating in the social ambit in order to provide a coherent, secure and reliable food safety system.
  • The EESC has previously pointed out 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" .
  • The Committee believes that it is vital to maintain both a high level of independence from external influence and optimal scientific expertise within EFSA, maximising risk analysis capacities in order to guarantee a sustainable EU assessment system, which is considered one of the best in the world.
  • The EESC believes that EFSA and the Member States, working as a network, should be enabled to develop, in the best possible way, appropriate risk communication capacities – independently but mutually consistent and coordinated between assessors and risk managers – using a clear, interactive approach so that users can grasp the findings and conclusions, while ensuring appropriate levels of confidentiality and protection of intellectual property rights.
  • The EESC is strongly in favour of setting up a register of studies, easily accessible online, that includes identification of certified experts and laboratories, sworn declarations of absence of conflict of interest, descriptions of aims, technical and financial resources allocated and sources.
  • The Committee believes that a significant improvement is needed in consumers' perception of the risk they face in relation to food, through a targeted food and nutrition culture and selective analysis capacity in relation to the risk.
  • In the EESC's view, the forthcoming general European strategic risk communication plan – if conceived in full harmony with, and respecting the independence of, EFSA – is the lynchpin on which the efforts of the bodies responsible must focus, the aim being to give an effective, unequivocal, timely, interactive and appropriate response to the public's needs regarding the safety, transparency and reliability of the food chain.
  • The EESC suggests boosting structured and systematic dialogue with civil society in which the EESC, with its Sustainable Food Systems bodies, could contribute in a useful and tangible way.
  • As far as EFSA governance is concerned, the EESC wholeheartedly backs the proposal for greater Member State and civil society involvement in the management structure and scientific panels, aligning the composition of the management board with the standards established by the Common Approach on Decentralised Agencies.
  • The EESC believes that the agreement between EFSA and the Joint Research Centre should be followed up, especially regarding joint activities on food and feed and framing a harmonised scientific quality analysis methodology that ensures transparency, comparability, inclusiveness and fairness for all stakeholders.