EFSA had no control over infiltration of toxics working group by industry network, documents reveal

Brussels

A working group of Food Authority EFSA aimed at allowing toxic chemicals to be marketed without any toxicological testing was put together in 2008 without any evaluation by EFSA management or external reviewers – against EFSA’s own rules.

Documents received by PAN-Europe from Food Authority EFSA after an access-to-documents request reveal [1] that the EFSA working group on TTC (Threshold of Toxicological Concern) was convened and organised by Susan Barlow, a UK private consultant to industry and a long-time insider of the chemical industry-funded lobby group ILSI (International Life Sciences Institute).

This flouts EFSA’s own rules [2] that say the selection procedure for experts are to be transparent and to be applied in a consistent way. The process for the TTC working group was neither transparent nor consistent with the procedure for other EFSA scientific groups characterised by several steps and involvement of the management Board and external evaluators. Instead the proposed chair, Susan Barlow, convened the group on her own. 

Barlow worked for ILSI on TTC before working on the same topic at EFSA – a clear conflict of interest that EFSA management has ignored.[3] EFSA management left her free to appoint members of her industry network to EFSA’s working group (see below graphic). She mentioned [1] Corrado Galli (linked to food and cosmetics industry), being “involved in ILSI”, Giovanni Zapponi as being “helpful in looking at the possibility to use TTC”, Ursula Gundert-Remy (linked to food and cosmetics industry; ILSI advisor), who promoted TTC as an alternative to zero-tolerances, and Andy Renwick who collaborated closely with Ian Munro (president of corporate advocacy group Cantox) in developing the original ILSI proposal on TTC [4].

In the end 10 out of 13 members of the EFSA TTC working group turned out to be known supporters of TTC and generally industry-linked [4]. The positive verdict of the ‘independent’ EFSA assessment on TTC [5] therefore comes as no surprise.

TTC is a tool developed by ILSI and big food companies defining a fixed level of exposure of chemicals that is assumed to be safe for people. Hans Muilerman of PAN-Europe states the tool is not safe and is fixed arbitrarily, not on the basis of scientific evidence. “The TTC is calculated using outdated industry data. The most toxic chemicals are removed from the database, thus allowing a high dose to be claimed safe. “TTC does not take account of independent scientific findings of harm at lower doses and cannot protect vulnerable groups like children.

“TTC is a trick to keep untested chemicals on the market and will save industry millions by enabling it to avoid expensive testing.

“TTC is already used for flavouring substances and industry is progressively promoting its use for pesticide metabolites (breakdown products) and cosmetics (by umbrella organisation COLIPA).”

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Notes for journalists

Further information

For further information please contact:

Hans Muilerman, Pesticide Action Network Europe, Tel: +316 558 072 55, E-mail: hans [at] pan-europe.info

© PAN Europe, Rue de la Pacification 67, 1000, Brussels, Belgium, Tel. +32 2 318 62 55

PAN Europe gratefully acknowledges the financial support from the European Union, European Commission, DG Environment, Life+ programme. Sole responsibility for this publication lies with the authors and the funders are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.