By Martin Banks - 17th January 2013
This will make the conclusions of risk assessments even stronger
The under-fire European food safety agency (EFSA) has moved to placate critics who have called on it to reform its internal procedures.
The EU agency has come in for criticism in recent months over claims about the influence representatives from industry have on the advice it gives to the commission.
Earlier last year, parliament refused to approve EFSA's budget and the European court of auditors called the agency's independence policy "inadequate".
The agency, based in Parma, has come under constant attack from transparency campaigners who have complained about several issues including alleged conflict on interests in the way it operates.
However, the agency has now announced what it calls a "major" initiative designed to "facilitate access to data and enhance transparency".
It says the programme will consider "how best and to what extent" technical data used in risk assessments can be made available to the broader scientific community and interested parties.
The agency, which celebrated its tenth anniversary last year, says the project is part of EFSA's "continuing commitment to openness".
It will also aim to address recommendations made by an independent evaluation report of the authority's performance to further enhance transparency in its decision-making processes.
The strategy also highlights the importance of EFSA "playing a leading role in making relevant scientific data more accessible to all interested parties".
The proposals were formally announced by EFSA executive director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle.
She said, "Risk assessment is an evolving science and EFSA is always willing to review its past work should new robust science bring a new perspective to any of the authority's previous findings.
"With the launch of the initiative that aims to make data used in risk assessment publicly available, EFSA will help scientists from different areas of expertise develop research that can ultimately enrich academic literature and provide valuable new perspectives that can be included in risk assessments.
"This will make the conclusions of risk assessments even stronger when ensuring public health protection and further build confidence in EFSA's work."
The transparency initiative builds on a range of measures already undertaken by EFSA to increase understanding, strengthen scrutiny and build confidence in its work, she added.
These include, she said, a "landmark" opinion by its scientific committee on transparency in risk assessment and subsequent initiatives such as publishing the full list of scientific studies.
An agency source said, "EFSA has also opened up its scientific committee and panel meetings to external observers to promote better understanding of how scientific risk assessment is carried out."