European Food Safety Authority

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European Food Safety Authority

EFSA logo
English name European Food Safety Authority
French name Autorité européenne
de sécurité des aliments
Italian name Autorità europea per
la sicurezza alimentare
Organization type European Union AgencyEuropean UnionEuropean Union 
status Establishment of European public law with its own legal personality
Seat of the organs Parma , ItalyItalyItaly 
Chair AustriaAustria Bernhard Url (Managing Director)
founding January 28, 2002

The European Food Safety Authority ( English European Food Safety Authority , EFSA ) is an agency of the European Union provides that scientific advice on existing and emerging risks in the food chain and informs about this. The agency's work covers all topics that are directly or indirectly related to food and feed safety, including animal health and animal welfare, plant protection and plant health, and nutrition.

The agency was founded in January 2002 following a series of food crises in the late 1990s and is based in Parma, Italy. The legal basis is Regulation 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council. The Agency's scientific assessments are designed to help the European Commission , the European Parliament and EU Member States make effective and timely risk management decisions that ensure the health of European consumers and the safety of the food and feed chain. The authority is required to inform the public in an open and transparent manner about all matters relating to its area of ​​activity.

Field of activity

The activity serves the political decision-makers in the adoption or revision of European legislation on food and feed safety, in the decision on the authorization of controlled substances such as pesticides and food additives or in the development of new legal frameworks and principles, for example in the field of nutrition. The agency has provided scientific opinions on many risk-related issues. These include Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy and Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy , the safety of food additives such as aspartame , allergy-producing food ingredients, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), wild and farmed fish, pesticides as well as topics related to animal health, such as the avian influenza (bird flu) . The agency also carries out scientific work on its own initiative, such as in the area of ​​emerging risks, in which scientific findings and approaches are constantly developing. One example of this is the development of a harmonized approach to compare the risks of potentially carcinogenic substances.

The Authority also collects and evaluates scientific data to ensure that the European risk assessment is based on as much scientific information as possible. It does this in cooperation with the EU Member States and by launching public hearings and calls for data. Finally, through its risk communication, EFSA provides all stakeholders and the public with relevant, conclusive, accurate and timely information on food safety issues based on its risk assessments and scientific expertise.

Structure and organization

EFSA headquarters in Parma, Italy (2016)

The authority is independent and subordinate to an administrative board (Art. 25 of the ordinance).

The agency has four main bodies:

  • The Management Board prepares the budget, approves the annual work program and thereby intends that EFSA will work successfully with partner organizations inside and outside the EU. In accordance with the Establishment Ordinance, its members come from the administration, public institutions, industry and non-governmental organizations via a fixed quota and are elected by the European Parliament at the suggestion of the member states. According to the regulations, the work of the Board of Directors is institutionally separated from the risk assessment work of the agency and is predominantly of an administrative, strategic and institutional policy nature.
  • The managing director is the legal representative of the authority. He is responsible for operational and personnel matters as well as the preparation of the annual work program in consultation with the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU member states.
  • The Executive Director is supported in technical issues by an Advisory Forum made up of representatives of the bodies responsible for risk assessment of feed and food in the Member States, as well as observers from Norway, Iceland, Turkey, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, and Macedonia , Switzerland and the European Commission. EFSA and the representatives of all member countries in the Advisory Board exchange information on relevant technical issues via a national "EFSA Focal Point" (set up for Germany at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)) on key strategic issues, on crises in the food and feed sector, on national work results Food safety authorities as well as scientific data and information on food and feed safety, nutrition, animal health and animal welfare as well as plant protection and plant health.
  • EFSA's own scientific advice and advice is provided by the Scientific Committee (SC) and ten Scientific Panels under their respective competences. EFSA's Scientific Committee and Panels are made up of experts from all areas of the scientific risk assessment of feed and food as well as animal and plant health. They have to apply actively on the basis of open, Europe-wide calls for tenders and are appointed to work at EFSA on the basis of their scientific excellence. The Agency's Scientific Panels are (EFSA's internal abbreviations in brackets):
    • Additives, products and substances in animal nutrition (FEEDAP)
    • Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW)
    • Biological Hazards (BIOHAZ), including risks related to BSE / TSE
    • Contaminants in the food chain (CONTAM)
    • Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA)
    • Food additives and nutrient sources added to food (ANS)
    • Food Contact Materials, Enzymes, Flavorings and Processing Aids (CEF)
    • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
    • Plant Health (PLH)
    • Plant protection products and their residues (PPR)
    • Scientific Committee & Emerging Risks (SCER)
Most of the panel's experts come from the EU and work at universities, research institutions and national food safety authorities. Since the majority of all evaluations require the EFSA committees to carry out meta-analyzes of existing scientific studies, the experts should not only have experience in carrying out risk assessments, but also in evaluating scientific work and publications among specialist colleagues (so-called peer reviews ). The experts are obliged to publish their biographies on the EFSA website and to disclose their possible conflicts of interest (so-called "declaration of interests"). In the event of possible conflicts of interest, EFSA will exclude the experts concerned from the evaluation routine; this happens a few times a year.

Funding the agency

The agency is an independent, decentralized European body financed from the EU budget and which operates independently of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU Member States.

EFSA Journal

The Authority has its own magazine, the EFSA Journal, which in Open Access is online fully accessible.


On the occasion of the approval of the Amflora potato developed by BASF, France's State Secretary for Ecology, Chantal Jouanno, criticized the EU food supervisory authorities' approach . The authority was only interested in health consequences and did not consider the effects of genetically modified plants on the environment. Supervisors need to improve their methods. “ We do not respect the competence of the food authority because we consider their assessments to be incomplete. "

According to a report in the Süddeutsche Zeitung , EFSA executives work closely with industry. They work for large food companies such as Nestlé , Kraft Foods or Unilever , which they should also control. This seriously jeopardized the authority's independence .

In the opinion of the environmental organization Friends of the Earth , EFSA does not sufficiently consider possible risks in the approval applications. The organization also accuses the authority of a lack of independence. These allegations were rejected by EFSA.

Another criticism concerned the chairwoman of the board of directors, the Hungarian university professor Diana Bánáti , who was in office in 2010 . She was also to October 2010, the board of the International Life Sciences Institute Europe (ILSI), which, by Greenpeace , lobbying for the genetic engineering industry is accused. The ILSI denies this and refers in a letter to Nature that it has been registered with the World Health Organization as a non-governmental organization since 1991 . However, the World Health Organization excluded ILSI in 2006 because it had too close contact with industry in setting standards for pollution of water and food. Since Ms. Bánáti's appointment by the European Parliament, not a single application for approval of a genetically modified plant has been rejected, which is why the EU Greens demanded her resignation in October 2010. According to a report by the MDR dated November 8, 2010, further employees of the authority are to work for the ILSI. Andreas Gies, an employee of the German Federal Environment Agency, and the Association for the Environment and Nature Conservation Germany have criticized the broadcaster about the authority's independence.

EFSA is also criticized for the herbicide glyphosate . In 2017, the Italian daily La Stampa and the British-American newspaper The Guardian accused the agency of including texts from the glyphosate manufacturer Monsanto in their own safety report. The EU Commission partially rejected the allegations of its agency, arguing that it was not EFSA that first copied text modules from Monsanto, but that Germany did so in its role as rapporteur.

External evaluation

The agency is obliged to have its work externally and independently evaluated every six years . The first evaluation was carried out in 2005. The second evaluation by Ernst & Young , carried out in 2011 and published in September 2012, examined the three areas of activity: provision of scientific results, risk communication and scientific cooperation with food safety organizations. EFSA's principles of independence, openness and transparency were also evaluated. The evaluation came to the conclusion that EFSA had contributed to the provision of high-quality scientific work, provided generally useful but sometimes unclear risk communication, and maintained an adequate, albeit expandable, system of cooperation and networks. EFSA worked independently and ensured a high level of openness and transparency, although there is still too little openness and transparency in the area of ​​risk assessment. It is recommended that the links between EFSA and industry be communicated more transparently, that internal processes relating to declarations of interest be checked and that criticism of independence be better dealt with.

Web links

Wiktionary: European Food Safety Authority  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Notice from EFSA - undated
  2. Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of January 28, 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down food safety procedures , accessed on 19 January 2002 . May 2013.
  3. Scientific Outputs at a glance. In: EFSA, accessed May 31, 2018 .
  4. Interview: “Nous ne reconnaissons pas leurs expertises” ,
    Soupçons sur l'indépendance des experts OGM de Bruxelles ,
    Des ministres de l'Union très critiques , Le Parisien of March 5, 2010 (French) .
  5. ^ Marianne Falck, Marvin Oppong : Dependent Controllers. How the European food regulator EFSA is influenced by industry - to the detriment of consumers (PDF; 322 kB), Süddeutsche Zeitung, October 27, 2011.
  6. Brigitte Zarzer: Totally connected? - "Friends of the Earth" accuse the European Food Safety Authority of taking sides in the interests of the genetic engineering industry , , February 23, 2005.
  7. EFSA response to report of Friends of the Earth Europe regarding risk assessments of the EFSA GMO Panel. In: Press release. EFSA, November 29, 2004, accessed April 27, 2014 .
  8. Declarations of Interests database - Management Board (English).
  9. a b Scandal at EU authorities - consumer advocates on behalf of corporations ( Memento from November 21, 2010 in the Internet Archive ). Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk, November 18, 2010.
  10. Special Statement on Lobbying ( Memento from March 25, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) (English).
  11. ^ Suzanne Harris: Correcting the record . In: Nature Biotechnology . tape 28 , no. 1 , 2010, p. 22-23 , doi : 10.1038 / nbt0110-22 .
  12. Zeit online, Bisphenol A - the EU food authority is said to be connected to the industry , November 18, 2010
  13. Does the President of the EU Food Inspectorate work for the GenTech lobby? ( Memento of January 5, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) in Pester Lloyd of October 1, 2010. Retrieved on October 6, 2010.
  14. Greens are calling for EFSA boss Diana Banati to resign due to bias from October 1, 2010, accessed on October 6, 2010.
  15. Roberto Giovannini: glifosato, la valutazione dei rischi Ue copiata dai documenti Monsanto , , September 15, 2017
  16. Arthur Neslen: EU report on weedkiller safety copied text from Monsanto study , , September 15, 2017.
  17. gutl: States could ban it themselves , , September 15, 2017.
  18. EFSA 10 years on - Independent report says Authority delivering on all fronts, outlines recommendations for further progress . Press release EFSA, September 5, 2012.
  19. Evaluation of EFSA - Final Report (PDF). Ernst & Young, 2012.
  20. EU Food Safety Agency wants to communicate better ( Memento from November 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) at Springer Medicine.

Coordinates: 44 ° 48 ′ 35.5 ″  N , 10 ° 19 ′ 18.2 ″  E