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BfR co-ordinates exchange of scientific information with the European Food Safety Authority

09/2008, 28.04.2008

Global networking and federal systems are a challenge for every co-ordination process

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is to henceforth co-ordinate the exchange of scientific information between the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the public authorities responsible for food and feed safety in Germany, stakeholders from economic, political and scientific circles and representatives of consumer associations. "In our new function as a ‘Focal Point’, we also assume an important mediator role when risks are assessed differently in Germany from the European level" explained Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of BfR, "We see this as a special challenge because the German federal system with its 16 federal states calls for a particularly extensive co-ordination process which can only be compared with the co-ordination processes between the 27 Member States of the European Union". Against the backdrop of the global food trade the appointment of BfR as the EFSA Focal Point was another important contribution to more food safety in Germany and the European Union. BfR was put forward for this important scientific co-ordination work by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV).

For several years now BfR has been engaged in close co-operation with the European Food Safety Authority. BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel is the representative for Germany on the EFSA Advisory Forum. Numerous scientists from BfR have been appointed to various scientific panels of this European agency. The assumption of this Focal Point function is the result of this close and successful co-operation.

As the national co-ordination office, BfR is an important mediator between EFSA and the competent federal ministries: BMELV, the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. This also applies to other institutions like, for instance, federal authorities and federal research institutes in the various portfolio areas of these three ministries. Furthermore, the Focal Point is an important link to the federal state ministries responsible for monitoring tasks in the area of consumer protection. All scientific institutions in Germany which are involved in tracing, identifying, assessing and managing risks in the areas food, feed, animal welfare and plant protection are to be included in this exchange of information. The future activities of the Focal Point will also include the development and maintenance of a database containing the details of experts who deal with various aspects of food safety. The objective is to channel more German expert knowledge into EFSA.

As the national co-ordination office, BfR is also to ensure that the exchange of scientific information on initiatives taken in Germany and by EFSA, ongoing processes and results of the risk assessment of food and feed takes a short route. The results of important scientific research projects can also be rapidly and smoothly passed on to all the stakeholders. In cases in which EFSA is of a different opinion about a risk assessment than the competent institutions in Germany or in other European Member States, the Focal Point will seek to clarify the situation.

As a co-ordinating office in Germany, BfR is to establish a network of representatives from public institutions, scientific, economic and political circles and consumer associations which will support EFSA in its tasks for the European Union. At the same time, information from Europe is to be disseminated in a targeted manner by the Focal Point in Germany. Focal Points are to be set up in all EU Member States. The goal of these activities is to make even more extensive use of existing European knowledge about the health risks of foods and, in this way, to ensure that food safety in Europe is placed on as high a scientific level as possible.