The European Food Safety Authority’s Management Board adopted the 2008 Annual Activity Report showing EFSA doubled the number of scientific opinions and other work it produced in
the past 12 months, and adopted the strategic approach setting out EFSA’s goals for international activities in the years ahead. Preliminary results of a survey carried out among
EFSA’s scientific experts confirm a strong commitment among the scientists to EFSA’s work.
«Encouraged by the achievements reached in 2008 and by the first annual survey carried out among EFSA’s scientific experts, the Management Board will continue to monitor the
work of the Authority and the satisfaction of its experts who play a key role in providing risk managers in Europe with independent and high quality scientific advice», Board
Chair Diána Bánáti said.
The Board, meeting in Rome, adopted the Activity Report on work carried out last year, which totalled 490 scientific outputs, including scientific opinions, statements, guidance and
reports. Workload also doubled, increasing to an average two mandates per working day compared to one per working day in 2007, the Report showed.
To help meet its commitment to provide the best support to the EU food safety system and to assist its scientific experts, EFSA last year increased staff in units working on
applications, in particular on health claims, and outsourced more work through contracts and grants (€ 2.3 million in 2008 vs € 1.6 million in 2007).
EFSA increased the number of scientific Panels from 9 to 10 and boosted the number of external experts supporting those Panels in a host of working groups. The Scientific Cooperation
and Assistance Directorate also bolstered its support, especially in such crucial areas as data collection and statistics, and an Experts Database was launched which now includes some
500 scientists from across the EU and beyond.
The development of fast-track procedures to address requests for urgent assistance – an earlier recommendation by the Management Board – enabled EFSA to react promptly to advise risk
managers last year on such issues as contaminated sunflower oil, melamine in composite foods and dioxins in Irish pork.
The Board also adopted EFSA’s international strategy and its plans mapping out key objectives to consolidate existing work and future initiatives with third countries and
international organisations, while maintaining its network and cooperation with Member States.
Those objectives are: to support the EU in its international programmes and commitments, such as with Codex intergovernmental task forces; to ensure access to international scientific
data and information to provide a strong basis for risk assessment and identifying emerging risks; to take part in risk assessment at international level; and to promote coherence in
risk communications and build awareness of EFSA’s activities at international level.
Executive Director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle outlined the preliminary results of a survey carried out among EFSA’s 773 scientific experts. The annual survey, suggested by
the Management Board to gauge and monitor the views of the experts who are essential for EFSA and its work, aims to identify the main areas of improvement to further facilitate the work
of the experts.
Among the main reasons for working with EFSA cited by respondents were the chance to help improve the health and well-being of society (44%), as well as the recognition by peers of
being an EFSA expert (45%). 87% said they were satisfied with the overall support provided by EFSA, and 95% said they wished to continue taking part in EFSA’s work. This
satisfaction was reflected in the number of applications EFSA has received following its call for the renewal of its Scientific Panels. 848 applications have been received, showing a 7%
increase compared to the previous renewal in 2006.
Among areas for improvement, the scientists said in the survey there was a need to further clarify the requests for advice submitted to EFSA, to improve the web/tele-conferencing
facilities, media relations as well as scientific co-operation with Member States.
At the March meeting of the Management Board, members will review the full survey results as well as an action plan to address any improvements.