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EFSA criticised by auditors over conflicts of interest

Brussels, 11 October 2012 - The European Court of Auditors (ECA) has sent a highly critical message to four of the EU agencies in a report published today, condemning their failure to manage conflicts of interest adequately.

The Court has carried out an investigation into conflict of interests policies at the European aviation safety agency (EASA), European chemicals agency (ECHA), European food safety agency (EFSA) and the European Medicines agency (EMA). The EASA came out worst in the score report, but significant shortcomings were identified at EMA and EFSA as well.

Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory said:

“This report confirms that there is no effective system in place at the agencies to ban conflicts of interest or to stop staff going through the revolving doors between the agencies and industry. Ongoing conflicts of interest at EFSA and the EMA jeopardise food safety and public health. The agencies have so far failed to take the action which is so badly needed”.

The auditors’ report stands in stark contrast to the praise that recently came from Ernst & Young, hired by EFSA to carry out an evaluation of the agency.

Holland added that EFSA for its part was twisting the Court's message by emphasising the observation that EFSA's system to deal with conflicts of interest seems 'more developed' than that of some of the other agencies. She argued that even though EFSA has recently made some changes to its policy and practices, it was not enough to claim that all problems had been solved.

The report also criticises the presence of industry figures on EFSA’s management board. This threat to EFSA’s impartiality, it says, is worsened by the fact that three of these organisations are at the same time represented on the Stakeholder Consultative Platform. This is a clear message to the EU institutions that are about to start a revision of the EFSA founding regulation, where this could be changed.

The ECA report can be found at:

Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory + 31 6 30285042

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