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EFSA comes under fire for latest 'revolving door' industry recruitment

Niamh Michail

By Niamh Michail+

Last updated on 28-Jan-2016 at 14:25 GMT2016-01-28T14:25:29Z

EFSA has defended Gallani's appointment as head of communications, citing her experience in both the public, private and voluntary sectors.
EFSA has defended Gallani's appointment as head of communications, citing her experience in both the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Barbara Gallani, chief scientist at UK food industry lobby Food and Drink Federation will become EFSA’s communication head in May – an appointment that has sparked criticism over its revolving door recruitment process.

Gallani is currently chief scientist and policy and sustainability director at the UK’s Food and Drink Federation and will take up her new position as head of the communications and external relations department at the Parma-based food safety authority in May this year.

Revolving doors?

But the swift transition between her two roles has been criticised by Brussels-based NGO Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO).

Researcher and campaigner at CEO, Martin Pigeon, said: "This transition without cooling-off period is simply scandalous, it's a plain case of revolving doors. Does EFSA seriously think appointing a food industry lobbyist at the head of its Communications is going to help public trust into the agency?”

Pigeon added that the solution in such cases was to impose a three year ‘cooling-off’ period before recruiting individuals whose appointment would risk creating conflicts of interest. “But Ms Gallani still is working for FDF as we speak!,” he added.

Or robust reviews?

An EFSA spokesperson told FoodNavigator that it has a robust policy and rules in place regarding its independence and scientific decision-making, which policy is reviewed systematically. The application of this policy, along with other as with other EFSA processes, is also audited by the European Commission Audit Service and the European Court of Auditors, he said.

“On the newly appointed head of communications, it’s important to point out that Barbara Gallani has a broad professional background, having worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors at various points in her career.

“Throughout her career, Ms Gallani has been recognised for her professional integrity and dedication to the food safety sector, whether in her time at the UK’s Food Standards Agency, the European Commission or more recently at Europe’s leading consumer organisation, BEUC, and the Food and Drink Federation.

“Her unique skillset, which includes communications, stakeholder relations and food policy advice at a national and European level, coupled with her training as a scientist, make her ideally suited for the role.”

In a 2011 poll, we asked FoodNavigator readers whether the EU risk assessor should be more thorough in ensuring there was no conflict of interest in cases of its former staff moving to private sector jobs.

EFSA’s ex-executive director, Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle, said she had voted a ‘Yes’ in the survey on behalf of EFSA “because it is important to stress that EFSA wants to avoid all potential conflicts of interest in connection with staff leaving EFSA and taking up employment in any so-called ‘revolving door’ cases.

When with the FSA, Gallani worked on nuclear discharges to the environment, organic chemical contaminants, and was seconded to the European Commission to work on dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in food.

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