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Press Release

28th March 2014

European Ombudsman condemns Food Authority EFSA twice for maladministration

In 2011, PAN Europe started a complaint at the Ombudsman on the EFSA Working Group on TTC (Threshold of Toxicological Concern), a statistical approach for risk assessment substituting safety testing. PAN Europe analyzed the work and the members of the group in a report [1] and showed that 10 out of 13 members had been involved in promoting TTC in the past and many links with industry. PAN Europe concluded that EFSA failed to protect the interest of the public and promoted the interests of industry.

The European Ombudsman now concludes that this was a case of maladministration. EFSA failed to start a thorough investigation after the publication of the report of PAN Europe to maintain public trust, EFSA failed to reply to PAN Europe at all and EFSA only presented its views after the opening of the inquiry of the Ombudsman. And while PAN Europe’s submission were detailed and contained concrete allegations, EFSA’s reply did not address these issues in a thorough and specific manner, according to the Ombudsman, and limited itself to some general observations. No violation of the rules could be observed because there were hardly any on conflict of interest at EFSA at that time.

In 2012 the Court of Auditors already mentioned the EFSA TTC-working group in their report [2] as an example of a lack of conflict of interest policy at the Agency ("advocates and reviewers of the same concepts").

A second PAN allegation concerns two external meetings EFSA organized together with industry lobby group ILSI (international Life Sciences Institute), one on TTC in 2011 and one on a related topic in 2005, excluding other stakeholders such as environmental NGO’s. In the case of the external meeting in 2011 EFSA misleadingly claimed their experts only visited the meeting but the Ombudsman clearly identified EFSA as co-organiser given their logo on the programme. The Ombudsman concluded that apart from one animal right NGO, no environmental NGO’s were invited to both meetings. The Ombudsman states she regrets the unwillingness of EFSA  to properly address the allegations of PAN Europe and she didn’t accept EFSA’s view that it didn’t understand complainants grievances. According to the Ombudsman EFSA gave the impression that it preferred to avoid addressing the issue, thus failing to dispel doubts as to its efforts to ensure a balanced stakeholder composition in its external  meetings. Again a case of maladministration.

The verdict of the Ombudsman confirms the experiences PAN Europe has over the years with EFSA, a high trust in industry and generally ignoring non-commercial views. PAN Europe expects EFSA to take advantage of the verdict, revise their conflict of interest policy and withdraw the controversial opinion on TTC.

— ENDS —

1. PAN report on TTC

2. "Management of conflict of interest in selected EU Agencies", Special report nr. 15, European Court of Auditors

Decision of the European Ombudsman closing the inquiry into complaint 2522/2011/(VIK)CK against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)

For further information please contact:

Hans Muilerman, Tel: +316 55807255

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