Food safety: EU acts to make food safety studies more reliable

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Responding to public concern in the form of a ‘European Citizens’ Initiative’, the EU Commission presented Wednesday a proposal to improve the transparency of scientific studies in the area of food safety.

The proposal, drawing also on the Commission’s Fitness Check of the General Food Law, which dates back from 2002 and thus needs an update, will:

  • Give citizens greater access to information submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)on approvals concerning the agri-food chain,
  • provide the possibility for additional studies to be requested by the Commission and,
  • will involve European Union Member States’ scientists more closely in approval procedures.

“The EU’s science-based risk assessment for food safety is one of the most stringent in the world,” said Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis: “We are now making it even stronger through clearer transparency rules and more effective risk communication throughout the process.”

The Commission is proposing a targeted revision of the General Food Law Regulation coupled with the revision of eight pieces of sectoral legislation, to bring them in line with the general rules and strengthen transparency in the area of GMOs, feed additives, smoke flavourings, food contact materials, food additives, food enzymes and flavourings, plant protection products and novel foods.

The key elements of the proposal:

  • Ensure more transparency, by allowing citizens to have automatic and immediate access to all food safety related information submitted by industry in the risk assessment process;
  • Create a common European Register of commissioned studies, to guarantee that companies applying for an authorisation submit all relevant information, and do not hold back unfavourable studies;
  • Allow additional studies to be requested by the European Food Safety Authority, upon request of the Commission and financed by the EU budget;
  • Require consultation of stakeholders and the public on studies submitted by industry to support product authorisation requests;
  • Increase Member States’ involvement in the European Food Safety Authority’s governance structure and scientific panels;
  • Strengthens risk communication to citizens, with common actions to enhance consumer confidence by promoting public awareness, understanding and explaining in a better way the scientific opinions expressed by the European Food Safety Authority, as well as the basis of risk management decisions.

The legislative proposals will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Member States for adoption. The Commission says it is aiming for the proposal to be adopted within the current legislative period, i.e. by mid-2019, for swift implementation.