Will EFSA ever become independent from the food industry?

All food products in the EU must first be evaluated as being safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) before being put on the market. It is therefore very important for the food industry to have EFSA saying the right thing... and for EFSA to be rigorously independent from the food industry!

But the agency keeps being criticised for the conflicts of interests of the experts on its panels, who are regularly shown to receive money or be unduly influenced by the food industry. Why does the agency keep appointing the wrong people? Is there a way to improve the situation?

Protesters in front of EFSA, November 2012

Conflicts of interest are also the tip of a larger iceberg. By law, the data used by EFSA to assess a product is provided by the company producing this product, and EFSA cannot publish this data without being sued by the company at stake, so it never does it. This means the scientific community cannot audit what EFSA does. Which, in turns, means that what EFSA does is not science but something else: regulatory science. Can such a flawed system be changed, and how?

In this dedicated section, you can find our main publications documenting the problem as well as our suggestions for trying to fix it. The below video is an educational tool from 2012 explaining in 3 minutes what the major problems at EFSA are. (Also available in French or with Spanish subtitles here).

The official EU assessment of glyphosate was based on unpublished studies owned by industry. Seven months later, the pesticide industry still fights disclosure and, so far, successfully. We obtained a copy of their arguments.

The European Commission proposal on scientific criteria defining endocrine disruptors (EDCs) is the latest dangerous outgrowth of a highly toxic debate. The chemical lobby, supported by certain Commission factions (notably DG SANTE and the Secretary-General) and some member states (UK and Germany), has put significant obstacles in the way of effective public health and environment regulation.

This May is dense on the EU chemicals regulation front. Crunch time for two major files: the European Commission needs to publish the identification criteria for endocrine disrupting chemicals, and together with EU States must decide how, or not, renew the market approval of glyphosate, an herbicide produced and defended by Monsanto. Last week, the Professor Alan Boobis happened to be involved in both.

Ms Barbara Gallani, who will become EFSA's Director for Communications from 1 May, was up until late March 2016 working for the largest lobby group for the food and drink industry in the UK, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF).