jueves, 29 de septiembre de 2011

Food additives: NGOs dismiss EFSA defense of its scientific independence

NGOs have dismissed the strident defense of the EU food safety agency regarding the independence of its panel looking at food additives such as aspartame.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)'s arguments supporting its scientific rigour are littered with inconsistencies, claim the Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) and Réseau Environnement Santé (RES), in communication sent to the head of that Agency today.
EFSA was responding to an earlier letter from the NGOs demanding the dismissal of two experts from its scientific panel on food additives and nutrient sources added to food (ANS) on the basis of their "undisclosed industry ties".

The CEO and the RES claim the scientists - Riccardo Crebelli and Ursula Gundert-Remy - failed to declare consulting services for the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a food industry-funded think tank and lobby group.
Questions about EFSA scientific independence draw industry-wide interest, particularly in light of the Commission's recent request to the food safety agency to conduct a full re-evaluation of the safety of aspartame by July 2012, due to MEPs’ concerns.

In a letter to the two NGOs, published on its website on 16 September, EFSA executive director, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, noted a number of ‘factual errors’ in the CEO/RES account and wrote:
“According to EFSA’s policy on declarations of interest, the experts mentioned in your letter were not required to declare those activities, as they are not related to their scientific panel’s field of activities.”

However, Nina Holland, a spokesperson for the CEO, said Geslain-Lanéelle's above statement contradicts the Parma-based agency’s own guidance document on declarations of interest, signed by Geslain-Lanéelle herself in September 2009.
Holland said the 2009 guidance: “clearly demonstrates that advice or services in a particular field falling within EFSA’s remit must be declared even if this advice or these services are not related to the field of activities of the scientific panel of a given expert.”
The NGOs have also written to EU administration commissioner, Maroš Šefcovic, urging tighter regulation to enable greater transparency in relation to industry ties within the EU's agencies.

Ari Wortzman

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