LUXEMBOURG) – EU ministers gave the green light Thursday to ending secrecy around scientific studies on food safety, with requirements for transparency in scientific information to support risk assessment in the food chain.
The new rules mean also that the governance of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be strengthened, with greater involvement of EU Member States in its management board.
The new Regulation was welcomed by the European Commission. “The Regulation adopted today will ensure proactive public disclosure of all submitted scientific data at an early stage of the risk assessment process,” said Vytenis Andriukaitis, Commissioner in charge of Health and Food Safety: “On the basis of this early pro-active disclosure, EFSA will carry out public consultations. The combination of these measures will provide for maximum transparency, allow public scrutiny of the submitted scientific data, by citizens and scientists, and ensure that EFSA will have access to the widest possible range of scientific and safety information.”
The Council has passed a review of the “General Food Law regulation” that has its roots in the European Citizens’ Initiative on glyphosate. The new regulation, that also amends eight legislative acts dealing with specific food chain sectors, will be soon published on the Official Journal of the European Union, but will mostly apply as of 2021.
Under the new rules studies and information supporting a request for a scientific output by EFSA are to be made public automatically when an application by a food business operator is validated or found admissible. Confidential information will be protected in duly justified circumstances and confidentiality requests will be assessed by EFSA.
Other measures introduced by the revamped General Food Law include:
- the possibility for the Commission to ask EFSA to commission studies in exceptional circumstances to verify evidence used in its risk assessment process
- a new database of studies commissioned by food business operators
- a more active role for member states in helping EFSA attract more and the best scientists to participate in scientific panels
- better risk communication among all actors – the Commission, EFSA, member states and public stakeholders
- fact-finding missions by the Commission to ensure the compliance of laboratories/studies with relevant standards
The Regulation will be published in the Official Journal in September and will become applicable in spring 2021.