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BgVV welcomes "von Wedel" expert opinion on the organisation of consumer health protection

22/2001, 12.07.2001

The Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV) welcomes the expert opinion on the organisation of consumer health protection presented by the President of the Federal Audit Court, Hedda von Wedel. "We see the expert opinion as a successful analysis of the weak points in consumer health protection and as a valuable and fundamental contribution to tackling the problems facing us", said Dieter Arnold, Director of BgVV at a press conference of the Institute. The contents of the expert opinion largely corresponded to the positions adopted by BgVV with regard to strengthening consumer health protection. Only last year the Institute had indicated its support for a bundling of competencies in consumer health protection in order to facilitate safer and more rapid risk assessment and, by extension, more effective risk management but also an effective representation of national interests within the European community of nations (cf. press release 01/2001 of 3 January 2001). Arnold had advocated, amongst other things, a statutory obligation for the highest possible degree of transparency in scientific advice.

The expert opinion highlighted both the splintering of competencies in the field of the supreme and subordinate federal authorities but also the lack of co-ordination in co-operation between the Federal Government and Länder. It called for the creation of efficient, organisational structures. It recommends, amongst other things, the setting up of an independent, central scientific institution of the Federal Government. This "scientific body" should be able to express an opinion on all matters of food safety, independently of any influence and interests and act as an adequate partner for the envisaged European Foods Agency and corresponding institutions of other Member States. Hedda von Wedel also pointed out in her expert opinion that a clear division between "risk evaluation" including "risk communication" on the one hand and "risk management" on the other was necessary with regard to transparency for and the creation of confidence amongst consumers. This should preferably be done by setting up two separate new institutions although it was agreed that if one federal institution were to be responsible for both "risk assessment" and "risk management", the necessary co-ordination processes would probably be easier.

BgVV adopts the following stance in this context:

In its capacity as an important German scientific institution in consumer health protection, BgVV has many years experience in the field of risk analysis whereby scientific advice including "risk assessments" accounts for around 90 percent of the current work of the Institute. Roughly 10% of its work has to do with risk management tasks above all in the area of authorisation procedures. An ongoing and close exchange between these two areas had proved to be the prerequisite for successful work. Against the backdrop of this experience and with regard to avoiding costly duplication of work, the Institute believes the bundling of all three tasks in one institute, as is currently practised successfully for instance in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the British Food Standards Agency, to be a serious alternative. Both of the above institutions enjoy high international standing. They are equated with scientific competence and political and economic independence. Both institutions have succeeded in guaranteeing the essential integrity of scientific risk assessment. Institutions which have adopted a different approach have not secured themselves the same degree of renown.

BgVV explicitly welcomes the fact that the proposed scientific body should also conduct its own research. In the opinion of BgVV this is the precondition for a high quality of scientific advice. This opinion was also adopted by the Scientific Advisory Council in 1999 in its expert opinion on the BgVV. Irrespective of the decisions taken on the political level, a rapid implementation of the planned organisation and structural changes is desirable in the opinion of BgVV.


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