The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is slowly taking form - several months behind schedule - with the announcement this week that it is currently on the look out for scientists to join its scientific committee and scientific panels. The step marks an important development in the evolution of the EFSA.
The central role of the EFSA is to provide independent scientific opinions in support of community legislation and policies and is composed of four essential components - the scientific committee and panels being one of these components.
Six independent scientists who are not members of a panel, together with the chairpersons of the eight panels, will sit on the scientific committee. The group will be responsible for general co-ordination and for opinions of a multi-sectorial nature or which do not fall within the competence of a panel.
The panels, composed of a maximum of 21 members, will be independently responsible for providing the EFSA's scientific opinions in their own areas of competence: food additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food; additives and products or substances used in animal feed; plant health, plant protection products and their residues; genetically modified organisms; dietetic products, nutrition and allergies; on biological hazards (including BSE and TSEs); contaminants in the food chain; and finally, animal health and welfare.
In short, the opinions of the scientists on both the committee and the panels will be based on risk assessments on matters having a direct or indirect impact on the safety of foodstuffs and animal feed and on related issues in the fields of health and welfare of animals and plant health.
Application forms and the original call can be obtained from the EFSA's website.
The new EFSA, Europe's edifice to food safety, formed a major component of the legal and organisational reforms embodied in the recent White Paper on Food Safety in Europe. But arriving at a working body is clearly taking time. Commissioner David Byrne may well have expressed his hope to see the EFSA up and running by the end of 2002, but as the call for scientists this week shows, the EFSA is still some way from achieving its remit.