What is the condition of the European food safety system?

EuroScience is one of the stakeholders in the academic category of the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). Statutorily the EFSA has a large number of stakeholders organized in some eight categories such as consumers, industry or academia. EFSA is obliged to consult the stakeholders on a regular basis, a key instance of which is the annual stakeholders’ forum. The EFSA Stakeholders’ Bureau organises the stakeholders’ involvement and comprises one representative from each category of stakeholders. Prof Jose Julio Ortega Calvo from Spain is the representative for the category of academia. Recently the members of this category have nominated prof Josee van Eijndhoven, proposed by EuroScience and a EuroScience member, as alternate member of the EFSA Stakeholders’ Bureau. She participated on January 14 in Brussels in a pre-presentation of a report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) prepared under the lead of Mr. Janusz Wojciechowski, member of the ECA. Here is her brief report.

“The EU food safety system is one of the best in the world, but the system is overstressed. That is the conclusion of a recent audit of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) about chemical hazards in our food. There are also parts that are better analyzed than others: there is more attention for pesticides than for instance chemicals than substances (from packaging materials or plates or cups, etc.) that can come into food.

The ECA did the audit for Europe as a whole and in three countries (Italy, The Netherlands and Slovenia). In principle the conclusions were the same for all examples. The level of safety is high, compared to countries outside the EU, but the European EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) and the institutions in the countries do not have enough capacity to assess everything well enough. Assessment and management of risks are well divided and the same holds for public and private controls. What should be improved is learning from other parties in the system.

The European Commission agrees with the report of the ECA. ECA organized on January 14 a meeting with stakeholders, including NGOs, industries and academia.”

Josee van Eijndhoven, a.o. former director of the Rathenau Institute (Dutch Institute for Technology Assessment)