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EFSA seeks to strengthen risk assessment

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 09-Nov-2012

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) tenth anniversary scientific conference on risk assessment concluded yesterday with a call for better communication and more ‘fit-for-purpose’ risk assessment tools.

The conference, ‘Challenging boundaries in risk assessment – sharing experiences’, brought together global food safety experts from a range of scientific disciplines to examine risk assessment challenges and areas for future development.

Better communication between risk assessors and risk managers was a concern raised repeatedly during the two-day event in Parma, Italy, as well as improving communication with the public, in order to manage expectations about protection goals and benefits.

Summarising the conference, chair of EFSA’s scientific committee Professor Tony Hardy called for more regular risk assessment conferences, perhaps every two to three years.

He said: “Science doesn’t stand still. It continually evolves…. Science will always drive forward with developments in technology and also in scientific theory. We need to look across the compartmentalisation of science and techniques so that methods used successfully in one area can be applied in others in a multidisciplinary way.”

Earlier in the conference, New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries’ professor Steve Hathaway addressed the concept of ‘fit-for-purpose’ risk assessment methodologies, saying: “Simple is not stupid and complex is not always correct.”

This was a theme taken up throughout the conference, along with approaches to explaining uncertainty.

“A core challenge is about where we focus our time and effort to continue to make progress in protecting consumers,” said EFSA’s director of science strategy and coordination Dr Hubert Deluyker.

He said: “EFSA functions thanks to the EU risk assessment community. And we are central to its progress, for instance through the development of guidance that has harmonised and modernised methodologies relating to risk assessment for food and feed over the past decade.”

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