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What Is the European Food Safety Authority?

The European Union has a ban on importing genetically-modified foods.
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  • Written By: Marlene Garcia
  • Edited By: Daniel Lindley
  • Last Modified Date: 05 August 2014
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The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) represents a public agency based in Italy that gathers scientific data on feed and food risks and communicates the information to the public. It was formed in 2002 after a rash of food safety risks emerged in the European Union. European Food Safety Authority members collect independent facts from scientific research to protect consumers from illness.

This agency employs independent members appointed by the European Council of Ministers. The board manages the budget and decides annual topics that concern public health. Board members serve four years and are appointed based on their expertise in food and feed safety knowledge. Four meetings a year are held, which are open to the public and may be attended via the Internet.

In addition to the board, the European Food Safety Authority authorizes a scientific panel and scientific committee to conduct risk assessment studies. Panel members come from all across Europe and must be published experts in the scientific realm. The scientific committee works closely with panel members before advising the European Commission about food safety issues that need immediate attention.

Food additives are one area explored by the European Food Safety Authority. It also covers research on flavors and preservatives in food and genetically modified organisms added to animal feed. The agency looks for contamination in the food chain, along with animal diseases that can spread to humans. Biological hazards and pesticide residue in food make up other areas under the control of the EFSA.

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The European Commission might ask for advice on a specific issue, or the authority might decide on its own to research a topic. Advice from the EFSA is commonly used to enact new legislation to protect the public from food risks. The information may also help in the approval of new food additives or pesticides.

Previous topics researched by the European Food Safety Authority include avian flu, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, and artificial sweeteners. The agency also gave advice on salmonella in egg products and nutritional supplements made from plants, such as ginseng. When studying the risks to public health, EFSA members might analyze the risk of cancer from additives, preservatives, and pesticides.

The EFSA focuses on independent opinions backed up by science. For that reason, authority members cannot come from government entities or private companies that have a stake in food safety issues. It operates on the premise of transparency and openness to ensure advice is sound. The European Food Safety Authority works in cooperation with all European Union member states.

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