The work of European Commissioner for Health & Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis around modernising and simplifying EU food safety policy is investigated here by Open Access Government
As the European Commissioner for Health & Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis, one of the important areas he is responsible for concerns modernising and simplifying European Union (EU) food safety policy. At the same time, he is mindful of keeping the present high level of safety in this area and making sure that existing policies have nothing but the maximum impact.
In a speech he delivered on 20th June at Agricultural and Rural Development Committee Annual Dialogue in Brussels, the Commissioner comments that the EU has stringent, effective food safety and animal and plant health legislation in place. While this system is regularly tested by animal diseases and plant pests, he argues that the EU’s response should be rapid, coordinated and strategic.
One of the many points Commissioner Andriukaitis addresses in this speech concerns the EU food safety system, which underpinned by a comprehensive body of food law, is by no means flawless. As such, the European Commission is not resting on their laurels, indeed they are seeking to perfect such a process. The Commissioner develops this notion by outlining concrete action that has taken place to improve food safety legislation, as he explains in his own words.
“In April, the Commission adopted its proposal on the transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment in the food chain with this goal in mind.
“The proposal is not an overhaul of the EU’s risk assessment system, but rather a targeted revision of the General Food Law and some sectoral legislation –to improve the transparency and sustainability of the process.”
The Commissioner underlines that he has presented a proposal to the EU Member States in the context of the AGRIFISH Council and to the ENVI Committee of the European Parliament earlier this year. The Commissioner stresses that a series of public consultations will follow but he explains that the proposal is based on four main pillars, which he details. Firstly, it would increase transparency, as we have already discussed in this article. Secondly, it will increase the reliability and the quality of scientific studies used in risk assessment, he explains.
“Thirdly, the proposal aims to increase Member State involvement in EFSA’s governance structure and Scientific Panels, without impeding EFSA’s independence. This will strengthen the long-term scientific capacity of EFSA.
“Finally, it would strengthen risk communication between the Commission, EFSA, the Member States, stakeholders and the public.
We aim to have the proposal adopted through the legislative procedure by spring 2019. The support of the European Parliament and of this Committee is crucial if we are to reach this target.” (1)
On the subject of food safety, it is worth highlighting more of the Commissioner’s thoughts on this vital area of policy. Let me take you to his Presentation of the Commission proposal on “General Food Law” to the PEST Committee, at European Parliament, Brussels on 19th June this year. Here, he stresses that it is right and proper that European citizens should expect safe food but adds that they are also concerned with the sustainability of the food system, environmental protection and how their food is produced.
“The governance of our food safety system is also becoming more open and inclusive, with a call for greater transparency in risk analysis as well as greater engagement of citizens in the decision-making process, facilitated by digital innovation and social media.
“Let me stress one point – this Committee and I share the same goal – to maintain food safety, protect citizens’ and animals’ health, and safeguard the environment.”
The “Fitness Check” of the General Food Law and the recent European Citizens Initiative on glyphosate both called for more transparency when it comes to the reinforcement of the system’s sustainability and the EU risk assessments in the food chain. On the revision of the Regulation on General Food Law, in summary, this seeks to:
- Increase transparency of the risk assessment so that scientists and citizens have access to key information at an early stage, except where confidential matters are concerned;
- Ensure specific measures to improve the quality and reliability of the scientific studies;
- Strengthen the involvement of EU Member States, EP and NGOs in EFSA’s governance structure, without impeding the independence of the EFSA and;
- Make risk communication between the European Commission, EFSA, the Member States, stakeholders and the public stronger.
Commissioner Andriukaitis concludes that this proposal will result in significant benefits and will improve European citizens’ trust and confidence in the legislative process. He calls for support around this initiative so that the legislative process can be completed within the current legislative term. (2)
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