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IP/02/100

Brussels, 21 January 2002

European Food Safety Authority adopted - Council agrees key legislation putting a new European-wide food safety system in place

The Council of Agriculture Ministers has today adopted the Regulation setting up the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and a new framework for EU food law. The adoption of this key legislation marks a record-time agreement between all Member States in the Council and all political groups in the European Parliament on a major overhaul of the EU food safety system and the way scientific advice feeds into policy making. It completes the first phase of the wide ranging reform of the EU food law launched by the Prodi Commission in its January 2000 White Paper on Food Safety. Commissioner Byrne announced at the Council meeting that this fast-track adoption of the Regulation clears the way for immediate action to get the Authority fully operational at its temporary Brussels' location this year. As a first step the European Commission will launch procedures for selecting and appointing a Management Board and Executive Director. In the meantime the current system for scientific advice will continue to function until the EFSA Scientific Committee and Panels have been set up

"Today is a day of great achievement for food safety in the EU, and a showcase for the effectiveness of European institutions when it comes to solving problems close to the hearts and minds of EU citizens. When this Commission took office in September 1999 we committed ourselves to take urgent action to address the serious concerns of consumers about the safety of their daily food. And that is what we have delivered, in record-time", David Byrne, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection said today. "This success story is the result of the hard work, the diligence and the exemplary co-operation between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission. I intend to immediately go ahead and launch procedures for selecting and nominating a Management Board and Executive Director of the EFSA. Now that we have a new and independent European Food Safety Authority agreed in legislation, we want to see it up and running within the shortest possible time."

Since he took office in September 1999, food safety has been Commissioner Byrne's top priority. The EFSA is the cornerstone of his strategy to ensure that the European consumer has access to the safest possible food supply in the world. The Regulation as adopted today also sets out the guiding principles of EU food legislation. A key element is the responsibility of food and feed businesses to ensure that only safe food/feedis placed on the market, and that foods/feedingstuffs that are unsafe are withdrawn from the market. It equally includes rules imposing the traceability of all foodstuffs, animal feed and feed ingredients, and procedures for developing food law and dealing with food emergencies.

It will also set up a Rapid Alert System for Feedingstuffs by integrating information on contaminated feed into the existing Rapid Alert System for Food. It will allow for rapid communication between the Member States on dangerous substances found in feed and its possible recalls and should be operational early Spring.

Next steps: a road map to the EFSA

Following the Laeken decision on Brussels as temporary seat for the EFSA, the European Commission has allocated part of its premises in Evere to the future Authority. This office space is currently occupied by the EFSA development team of the Directorate General for Health and Consumer Protection, as well as the staff responsible for supporting the existing scientific committees.

Before the EFSA can start to operate as an independent legal entity, a Management Board and Executive Director need to be appointed. The European Commission intends, in early February, to publish open 'calls for expression of interest', asking for candidates for the Management Board and for the Executive Director. The Management Board is to be composed of 14 members and a representative of the Commission. The Council will, after hearing Parliament's view, appoint these 14 members from amongst the suitably qualified candidates, identified by the Commission, that have come forward in response to the open call. The European Parliament will have a maximum of three months time to make its views on the candidates, listed as suitably qualified, known to the Council.

The Management Board will subsequently appoint the Executive Director on the basis of a list of suitable candidates following an open recruitment process. Before his or her appointment, the candidate for the Executive Director post chosen by the Management Board will appear before the European Parliament for a presentation and to answer questions.

An early publication of the two calls for expressions of interest would mean that the European Commission could draw up a list of suitable candidates for the Management Board by April. The selection process for the post of Executive Director will take place in parallel. Depending on the time it takes the European Parliament and Council to appoint the Board Members, the Executive Director could take up office sometime during the summer or early autumn.

One of the first tasks of the Executive Director will be to present a proposal for the constitution of the EFSA's new Scientific Committee and Panels, and to start recruiting the necessary specialised staff for the administration and the scientific work of the agency. The Director will also be in charge of setting up set up the Advisory Forum that is to assist the Authority in scientific and technical matters.

Until the EFSA management is in place, the European Commission will continue the preparatory work to ensure that the EFSA can become operational. The existing scientific committees will continue to function until the EFSA's Scientific Committee and Panels are operational to avoid any disruption in scientific advice on food safety matters.

The main task of the EFSA is to provide scientific advice and support for Community legislation and policies in all fields having a direct or indirect impact on food and feed safety. It will give independent information on these matters and communicate on risks in the food chain to the general public. The Authority is to become a point of reference for all stakeholders, policymakers and the public by virtue of its independence, the scientific quality of its opinions and its information to the public as well as the transparency of its procedures.

In addition to its own specialist personnel, the Authority will manage and be supported by networks of similar scientific and food safety organisations in the EU.

For more detail see

http://ec.europa.eu/food/fs/efa/index_en.html

and Questions and Answers about the European Food Safety Authority at

http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/health_consumer/library/press/press135_en.pdf

The EFSA will be publishing its own web site at efsa.europa.eu shortly.


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