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PAN Europe – European Ombudsman condemns EFSA twice for mal-administration

In 2011, Pesticide Action Network Europe (PAN-E) started a complaint to the Ombudsman on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Working Group on the threshold of toxicological concern (TTC), a statistical approach for risk assessment substituting safety testing.

PAN Europe concluded that EFSA failed to protect the interest of the public and promoted the interests of industry, as by analyzing its work and the members of the group, it found that 10 out of 13 members had been involved in promoting TTC in the past with many links with 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 by PAN Europe as well as failing to reply to PAN Europe at all.

EFSA only presented its views after the opening of the inquiry of the Ombudsman, but still then it did not address the issues in a thorough and specific manner 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.

A second PAN allegation concerns two external meetings EFSA organised together with an industry lobby group, one on TTC in 2011 and one on a related topic in 2005, excluding other stakeholders such as environmental NGOs.

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 did not accept EFSA’s view that it did not 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.

Originally posted on 11 April 2014

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