EFSA adapting to increasing workload, says executive director

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Efsa Management European food safety authority

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) expects to process
applications for 1000-2000 health claims, 900 food additives and
2800 flavours in the next 12 months, according to EFSA executive
director, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle.

Geslain-Lanéelle said EFSA was finding ways to cope with its burgeoning workload as it looks to put in place its strategic five-year plan for 2009-2013.

The plan is due to be submitted to the EFSA Board by year's end.


In its five-year existence, EFSA's workload has quadrupled and it has published more than 600 opinions and processed about 1600 applications.

"Sometimes the establishment of new legislation means hundreds of applications, or reviews of applications, have to be dealt with at the same time," she told the European Parliament's Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety yesterday.

"Therefore to manage this workload and establish priorities, dialogue with risk managers is crucial.

We already work closely with the Commission in this context and we will build on this."

She said confidence in EFSA's ability to administer qualified and independent advice meant it was being passed more work by European agencies.

"We are constantly reviewing our procedures in order to refine our working methods and deliver the best possible science upon which decisions can be based.

We also follow closely the activities of the EU institutions on the governance of agencies and we are working on the governance of EFSA in order to be well prepared to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow."

Staff levels had been boosted by 100 to 325 from the end of 2006, with the number of people devoted to scientific activities doubled.

Scientific activities would account for 71 per cent of its activities by the end of the year.


As part of its restructuring programme, EFSA is disbanding its panel on additives, flavours and processing aids and materials in contact with food (AFC) , which has experienced the highest workload and processed more than 1300 applications.

Two new panels will be created - one to deal with food additives and nutrient sources added to food; another that will look after food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids.

"This will enhance our capacity and will facilitate the work of our scientific experts," said Geslain-Lanéelle.

"We are confident that the two Panels will be fully operational at the end of this year."

Union Ties with Member States would be strengthened to "make effective use of synergies, and benefit from the expertise available in Member States and avoid unnecessary duplication of work."

"We started in 2007 to implement our Strategy for Cooperation and Networking and we have established working groups with the Member States on topics such as fortification with folic acid, the safety assessment of botanical preparations, harmonisation of risk assessment methodologies and chemical occurrence data."

'Focal Point' agreements had been signed with 22 Member State authorities to facilitate this process.

"These Focal Points were established with the remit to facilitate information exchange, build strong networks between EFSA and all players in the food safety system, and to coordinate risk assessment institutes within Member States."

She said the Parma, Italy-based agency's fundamental remit to separate risk assessment and risk management had been met successfully and delivered a safer, more easily understood food system.

"When I last addressed you, you drew my attention to the importance of ensuring the independence of the Authority's work.

Since then, we have revised the procedures and the policy for declarations of interests with the aim of strengthening our credibility and ensuring transparency."

EFSA's five-year strategic plan highlighted six key areas: Provide an integrated approach to delivering scientific advice associated with the food chain from field to the plate Provide timely, high-quality evaluation of products, substances and claims subject to the regulatory authorisation process.

Develop and provide access to unique pan-European scientific databases related to food and feed safety and nutrition Position itself at the forefront of risk assessment methodologies and practices in Europe and internationally Reinforce dialogue with the stakeholders and promote safe and healthy diet choices through pan-European science-based risk communication Assure the responsiveness, the efficiency and the effectiveness of EFSA

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