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BfR sets up national expert committees for food safety and consumer protection

08/2008, 24.04.2008

14 scientific committees advise the Institute

In future, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) will be advised by 14 committees on questions of food and product safety in conjunction with its scientific work for the German government and European bodies. About ten external, independent experts will be appointed to each committee who will then input their expertise into the work of BfR on a voluntary basis. "With this expert network we can bundle expertise on the highest scientific level for our risk assessments and input it into international bodies", commented Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of BfR. The scientific quality of the Institute’s expert opinions will thus be raised and external quality assurance guaranteed. Furthermore, the Institute will also be able to seek external expertise at short notice in cases of crisis. The structure of the BfR committees is largely oriented towards the panel structure of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

BfR has the task of undertaking independent risk assessment, in line with the latest scientific findings and technology, of substances and microorganisms in food, feed and consumer products. The BfR scientific opinions are used, amongst others, by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection and the Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety as the basis for political decisions. The committees set up at BfR enable the Institute to raise the scientific quality of its opinions through external expertise.

The idea of drawing on external expertise, too, for risk assessment is by no means new. More than 50 years ago, for instance, the Plastics Committee was established which still advises BfR today albeit with a different composition and now with a new name, too. The results of the committee work are taken over into the BfR assessments. Last but not least, the successful work of these committees prompted the Institute to set up committees of this kind for other scientific areas, too.

The establishment of the new, extended committee structure was dependent on a comprehensive appointment procedure. A specially set up appointment panel selected the committee members from the circle of applicants. The appointment panel consists of members of the BfR Scientific Advisory Council, the BfR Governing Board, the chair persons of the Senate Commissions on Food Safety and on Substances and Resources in Agriculture of the German Research Foundation (DFG) as well as of one member of the Governing Board of the Senate of Federal Research Agencies. By applying to become committee members, the applicants undertake to act independently without being influenced by any external source.

The new committees are:

  • Consumer products
  • Assessment of intoxications
  • Biological hazards
  • Nutrition, dietetic products, novel foods and allergies
  • Exposure assessment and standardisation
  • Genetically modified food and feed
  • Hygiene
  • Contaminants and other undesirable substances in the food chain
  • Cosmetics
  • Food additives, flavourings and processing aids
  • Pesticides and their residues
  • Pharmacologically active substances and veterinary medicinal products
  • Wine and fruit analyses
  • Additives, products and substances used in animal feed

The experts come from universities, regional control bodies, trade associations, consumer protection associations and private laboratories.

The appointment panel has selected a total of 165 experts as committee members. The first two committees (BfR Committee for Consumer Products and the BfR Committee for Genetically Modified Food and Feed) start work on 24 April 2008 and, like all the others, are to meet roughly twice a year.

Aside from the newly appointed committees, the National Breastfeeding Committee, located at BfR, and BfR’s Committee for Alternative Methods to Animal Experiments will continue with their current members.

Further information on the individual committees can be accessed on www.bfr.bund.de.

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