EFSA proposes science panel split

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Efsa, Food standards agency

The board of the European Food Standards Authority yesterday said
it plans to carve up the workload of its Additives and Food Contact
(AFC) panel between two new panels - one for food additives and the
other for food contact materials.

The move is a strong indication that expectations on EFSA to provide scientific opinion to inform food regulatory matters are growing. A spokesperson from the authority had not responded to FoodNavigator.com's request for more information on the plan - nor implications for funding - prior to publication deadline. The first of the new panels is dubbed 'the panel for food additives and nutrient sources added to food', which will also look at the safety of other substances added to food deliberately. Work in this area has been mounting up this year, not least because EFSA is charged with a pivotal role in the implementation of the new nutrition and health claims regulation - that is, reviewing scientific dossiers to support claim applications. Moreover, EFSA is presently conducting a review of safety data on all the food colours that have been approved for use in the EU over the last three decades - a task that involves around 45 different substances. Last week the UK's Food Standards Agency forwarded to EFSA a study on the role of certain food colourings and additives on children's behaviour, and the views of its toxicology committee. EFSA has said it will take this study on board as part of its additives review process. The European Commission is in the early stages of redrawing the regulatory landscape on all food additives, bringing together some 12 separate pieces of legislation under one banner. EFSA is very likely to have some role to play in the implementation of this in due course. The second new panel is 'the panel on food contact materials, enzymes, flavourings and processing aids'. It will also be concerned with the safety of substances added indirectly to food, and safety of new processes. The board of EFSA is now to forward a formal request to split the panel to the European Commission. Its new panels could start work in 2008. At the same time, EFSA said that it is reviewing its Declarations of Interest process to ensure greater consistency and guidance. The revised document for submitting declarations of interest is expected to be submitted to the board for possible adoption within the next few weeks. No indication has been given as to whether the review stems from an incident. But the measure is consistent with executive director Catherine Geslain-Laneelle's opinion expressed in February, that "openness and transparency within EFSA was of paramount importance to highlight the independence of the risk assessment process".​ EFSA management board chair Professor Patrick Wall added that transparency is essential for building consumer confidence in the authority's opinions, and for EFSA's credibility as a "world-class science-based authority".

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