The European Environment and Health Committee has adopted proposals to improve the efficiency and transparency of the European Food Safety Authority, the EU’s food watchdog.
Under the new proposals the European Food Safety Authority will be compelled to publish studies about a product before the product is authorised to go on the market. A common European register of commissioned studies will be established in order to minimise the risk of food manufacturers suppressing unfavourable studies; and the agency would be encouraged to solicit third party input to determine whether other relevant studies exist.
The risk assessment procedures used by European Food Safety Authority will be subject to greater transparency in order to boost consumer confidence in the body; while the application process for food producers is to be streamlined to reduce waiting times for manufacturers. The committee has set new criteria within which data may still remain confidential, such as proprietorial preparation information and trademark descriptions.
Rapporteur Renate Sommer said: “It is true that there is room for improvement in the transparency rules of the European Food Safety Authority. The agency already publishes a lot of information, but it is not obliged to. Adopting proactive transparency rules, like other EU agencies do, would therefore make sense. However, what the European Parliament’s Environment Committee decided today seriously jeopardises the competitiveness of European manufacturers. If the manufacturers’ applications for authorisation and the underlying scientific studies have to be published at the time of application, there is a risk of worldwide ‘ideas piracy’.”
The proposals for the European Food Safety Authority come in the wake of the 2017 European Citizens’ Initiative on glyphosate, which expressed concern over the transparency of scientific studies which are used in pesticide evaluations; while the European Commission did not accede to the initiative’s request to ban glyphosate outright, it did pledge to improve the transparency of scientific assessments of substances going forward.