Campaigners have today written to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission challenging the appointment of an industry expert to the public body. The official complaint argues that a senior figure and expert in risk communication should not have been appointed to the agency because of her close links to industry .
Corporate Europe Observatory, Testbiotech and Food & Water Europe are urging the Commission to introduce new rules on what they describe as “reverse revolving doors” – where industry lobbyists take up jobs within EU institutions – as part of the on-going review of EU staff regulations.
In an article on the case, Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) argues that employees who have previously lobbied for or otherwise represented private sector interests face a conflict of interests when employed by a public institution . CEO is calling on the Commission to introduce a ‘cooling-off’ period of at least two years before being allowed to take up a post in a related public institution.
The article details how a senior EFSA employee previously represented the food industry body EUFIC in a number of EU fora – including EFSA – promoting industry’s interests in the area of risk management, before being appointed to the agency. The employee is now responsible for developing risk management guidelines for EFSA.
Corporate Europe Observatory spokesperson Olivier Hoedeman said:
“This case highlights the potential conflict of interest between private sector and public interests. The employee’s approach to risk management has been developed in food industry lobby networks, where protecting the reputation and profitability of industry are the main priorities. EFSA is supposed to protect public safety – not the profits of industry.”
“Such situations create a very real risk of a conflict of interest. That is why the Commission must tighten the staff rules and introduce a cooling off period of at least two years for industry insiders moving to EU institutions, including EFSA.”
In the United States, the Obama administration has recognised the potential risk of conflicts of interest in such situations. The President has required presidential appointees to disqualify themselves from matters that effect former employers and clients because of conflicts of interest and members of the US Senate have proposed a six-year ban on lobbyists wanting to enter congressional service . No similar measures have so far been proposed in the EU.
The Commission is currently reviewing the staff rules and the code of conduct for Commissioners following widespread concern after a number of former Commissioners moved into lobbying positions after stepping down this year .
EFSA has recently come under heavy criticism from MEPs and NGOs for its close links to industry. Diána Bánáti, chair of EFSA’s management board, last month had to resign from the board of directors of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a lobby group funded by food companies. The European Ombudsman is investigating a complaint against EFSA for allowing the former head of its Genetically Modified Organisms Unit to become a lobbyist for biotech giant Syngenta without any ‘cooling-off’ period.
Olivier Hoedeman, email: email@example.com, tel: + 32 474 486 545
 Letters to EFSA and the Commission: http://www.corporateeurope.org/lobbycracy/content/2010/11/big-food-shapi...
 “How EFSA let Big Food shape its risk communication policy”, Corporate Europe Observatory, November 2010. http://www.corporateeurope.org/system/files/files/article/EFSA_big_food_...
 S.3272 – Close the Revolving Door Act of 2010 (Introduced in Senate - IS), 111th Congress (2009-2010), Senator Michael Bennet, 28 April 2010. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c111:S.3272:
 “‘Revolving doors’ scandals force commission to overhaul code”, EUobserver, 11 November 2010. http://euobserver.com/18/31248