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Transparent Risk Assessments In Food Safety Report Welcomed

Everyday it seems, the food industry dream up a new food which the media advertising agencies then promote saying it is good for us, good for dieters, good for children; and yet the scientific evidence for this being the case or indeed for the food being safe in the first palce, is often lacking.

Given the levels of chemical additives in food, and the proliferation of irradiated and genetically modified food; it is important that decisions on the safety of our food is made based on scientific evidence and uniform risk assessment proceses.

In attempt to address this issues and to ensure that risk assessments of foods and their safety for consumption, are both uniform and transparent; the EU set up a working group to look into the issues of risk assessments and the decision made in determining the suitability for a specific food to be produced and sold for human consumption.

The UK’s Food Standards Agency has now welcomed recommendations on the transparent use of risk assessment in decisions on food safety following final agreement on and publication of the working group’s report.
The report, agreed by the Heads of National Food Agencies in Europe (HoA), looks at how to ensure that risk assessments are used consistently and transparently in decisions on food safety in the EU.

A key conclusion is that there needs to be the same level of transparency and rigour in making risk management decisions as already exists for risk assessment, to ensure that the basis for decisions is clear. The report makes a number of recommendations for how these objectives can be achieved.

Key recommendations are that:

  • national agencies share their experiences on developing and using frameworks for risk management
  • the agencies work with the European Commission to develop such a framework at EU level.

The recommendations were put together by a working group of national food agencies from Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK (the FSA).

The HoA endorsed the report and agreed the recommendations at their meeting in Cyprus on 4 December 2012. The Working Group will now develop an action plan for implementing the recommendations.
FSA Chief Scientist Andrew Wadge said:

“This is a really valuable report that addresses a key issue about how decisions affecting the food we eat are made. Scientific risk assessment is the starting point for decision making, but there are other legitimate issues such as social or economic factors that also need to be taken into account.

Click to download reportThe report argues that where decision makers depart from the advice of risk assessors they need to explain their reasons rather than simply cite ‘scientific uncertainty’ or the 'precautionary principle'. This will help build trust and confidence in the regulation of food safety.

The Agency welcomes the recommendations made in the report and will, as part of the working group, now help to develop the action plan and support its implementation.”

The report argues that the benefits of the transparent use of risk assessment in decision making are numerous:

* it helps to ensure effective protection for consumers, by ensuring actions are informed by the best scientific understanding of which risks are the most significant for health, while avoiding disproportionate impacts on innovation, trade and the economy.

* it helps to focus measures on the best understanding of the nature of risks and of the impact of measures to control them, it supports the principles of better regulation.

* it helps to ensure resources are used efficiently by targeting risks with the greatest potential effects on health; this is all the more important in times of economic pressure and restricted resources for risk assessment and for risk management.

The full report can be downloaded in pdf format from the E-Library here

Source: FSA / EU Working Group On Food Safety

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