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European Commission - Press release

Commission acts to boost trust in scientific studies on food safety

Brussels, 11 April 2018

Today the Commission is responding to the concerns expressed by citizens in a successful European Citizens' Initiative, with a proposal to improve the transparency of scientific studies in the food safety area.

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 Member States' scientists more closely in approval procedures.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Today we are addressing citizens' concerns, to improve transparency about decision making, to offer better access to relevant information and to ensure that trustworthy, science-based risk assessment remains at the heart of decision making in this sensitive area of food safety."

Vytenis Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: "The EU's science-based risk assessment for food safety is one of the most stringent in the world. We are now making it even stronger through clearer transparency rules and more effective risk communication throughout the process. With this reform citizens will have immediate access to scientific studies supporting applications for authorisation. I call on Member States and the European Parliament to quickly turn this proposal into law, so we can deliver results for citizens before the European elections next year."

The Commission is proposing a targeted revision of the General Food Law Regulation[1] 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 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 inthe European Food Safety Authority's governance structureand 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. 

Background

In 2002, the General Food Law established the risk analysis principle as a general principle in EU food law. It created an EU food safety system in which responsibility for risk assessment (science) and for risk management (policy) are kept separate. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was established as an independent EU agency responsible for scientific advice on risks associated with the agri-food chain.

The results of a Fitness Check of the General Food Law published earlier this year confirmed that the legislation meets its core objectives of ensuring a high level of protection for human health and the smooth functioning of the Internal Market. In particular, the risk based approach to EU food law has raised the overall level of protection against potential food safety risks. However, the Fitness Check also highlighted citizens' concerns over the transparency of scientific studies and the risk assessment process in the agri-food chain.

On 6 October 2017 a European Citizens' Initiative entitled 'Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticide' was submitted to the Commission, with statements of support from 1,070,865 Europeans. One of the requests in the Initiative was to improve the transparency of scientific studies submitted to the European Food Safety Authority, and to enhance the commissioning of studies by public authorities. The Commission issued its response to this Initiative on 12 December 2017. Four successful Citizens' Initiatives have so far collected over 1 million signatures each, and the Commission has now taken follow-up action on 3 of them.

Next steps

  • The legislative proposals will now be submitted to the European Parliament and the Member States for adoption.
  • The Commission aims for this proposal to be adopted still in the current legislative period, i.e. by mid-2019, for a swift implementation.

For more information

MEMO: Commission's proposal on transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment model in the food chain

Commission Communication on the 'Stop Glyphosate' European Citizens' Initiative'

The text of the proposal available here

Transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment in the food chain

Follow us on Twitter: @Food_EU

 

[1]         Regulation (EC) N°178/2002

IP/18/2941

Press contacts:

General public inquiries: Europe Direct by phone 00 800 67 89 10 11 or by email


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