EU Commission wants to end secrecy around food safety assessment
BEUC NEWS - 11.04.2018
The European Commission just adopted plans requiring the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to publish non-confidential parts of industry-funded studies that support safety evaluations of products such as pesticides, food additives or novel foods for instance.
Under EU law, the industry must prove its products are safe before it can put them on the market. But today, the studies industry pays for and submits to EFSA as part of a product authorisation request remain secret.
BEUC backs the Commission’s intention to increase the transparency of EFSA scientific assessments. It can help strengthen consumer trust in the EU food regulatory system. Concretely, the proposal aims to update the 2002 EU General Food Law with the following measures:
- EFSA shall publish all studies underpinning a product authorisation request, except for certain confidential data specified in the proposal.
- Industry shall notify EFSA of any study it commissions to demonstrate the safety of its products. A list of these studies will be compiled in a publicly accessible EU register managed by EFSA.
- Industry applicants will have the possibility to seek EFSA’s advice on the content and completeness of authorisation dossiers before submitting them. The advice received from EFSA will be made public.
- Member States should involve themselves more in EFSA by sending representatives to the agency's management board and proposing scientists who could sit on EFSA panels of experts (responsible among other duties for evaluating the safety of industry products).
The register of commissioned studies will prevent that any industry research giving unfavourable results is hidden away – if not stopped at the lab stage.
BEUC also believes that if we are to restore consumer trust in how their food is regulated, we need more publicly-funded research driven by societal needs, not commercial ones. To complete the picture, the way the EU allows products such as food additives or pesticides onto the market deserves a transparency boost. Safety is imperative, yet EU decision makers must also look at other factors, such as socio-economic and ethical aspects or consumer expectations. We currently have no idea about how, if at all, these weigh in on the final risk management decisions.
The European Commission proposal will now be forwarded to the Council and European Parliament for consideration and amendments.