The Whitehouse Consultancy

Engaging EFSA

By Viviana Spaghetti, Political Consultant

It is a cardinal rule of influencing the policy-making process in the EU that the earlier you’re in the game, the better your chances of achieving your objective.

In Brussels, it is vital to talk to the European Commission – the EU civil service – before a legislative proposal is even born. Commission officials are mostly open to stakeholder input; whilst they know that not everyone will always be happy with proposed legislation, the Commission are sensible enough to want to produce something that is workable and as fair as possible. The process is also very transparent: the Commission publicly lists its meetings with stakeholders on a Transparency Register (and would like the European Parliament and the Council to do the same, so far with limited success).

Another way to influence EU policy at an early stage is to engage with the Commission’s independent advisers. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is one such key advisory agency: it was established in 2002 to strengthen the European food system and assure the safety of the food chain.

As the risk assessor, EFSA and its 500 plus scientists produce opinion and advice that the Commission uses as a basis for their legislative acts. This include evaluations of food additives and enzymes, acceptable daily intakes of certain substances and the approval of health claims, that is the information that you can write on your products to communicate their benefits to consumers. The intent was to separate the risk assessment from the risk management, allowing the Commission to make informed judgements based on transparently independent advice.

For a food business operator, engagement with EFSA is crucial – and EFSA itself is increasingly open to talking more with food businesses. EFSA itself has put in place several permanent platforms to interact with a large number of stakeholders, who can submit data, scientific evidence and ask questions of the Authority. In this way EFSA can ensure that its advice is based on all the available scientific evidence, and food businesses themselves can ensure that crucial information is fed to EFSA’s scientists.

As ever with trying to influence the EU, the process can seem convoluted and wearying – but it is vital to engage with probably the key food safety body in Europe on an issue that may affect your business.

If you’ve got any questions on how EFSA (or the European Commission) work we are here to help.

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