EFSA's new policy fails to ban experts with industry links

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) new independence policy allows the possible subversion of scientific advice by industry’s vested interests, Corporate Europe Observatory said following publication of the policy on Wednesday. It is due for approval by the EFSA Management Board when it meets tomorrow in Warsaw.

Corporate Europe Observatory said the policy, aimed at improving EFSA's independence in delivering scientific opinions on food safety, failed to explicitly ban experts with links to industry from sitting on EFSA’s advisory panels, risking serious conflicts of interest.

Nina Holland, campaigner at CEO said: "The policy put forward by EFSA does not explicitly ban experts with industry links. We think there should be clear criteria to make sure scientists who have a conflict of interests do not sit on EFSA’s advisory panels.”

She added that the only notable improvement in the policy was the inclusion of a broader definition of conflicts of interest, which had been called for by CEO.

EFSA has also defended the way in which it deals with revolving door cases, where members of EFSA staff go through the revolving door to work for industry. EFSA claims that the tighter rules now in place mean that the mistakes identified by the European Ombudsman in the case of Suzy Renckens would not be repeated. But CEO has highlighted the case of David Carlander, a scientific officer at EFSA working on guidance for assessing the risks of nanotechnology in food, who went on to become Advocacy Director at the Nanotechnology Industries Association in September.

EFSA reports that its new improved processes to handle revolving door cases can be seen in action with its decision to place restrictions on Carlander's role at NIA. Yet CEO considers that these restrictions are very limited, considering the potential conflicts of interest at stake; a cooling off period of two years would have been a more effective decision in this case.