Europe's food safety body appoints new chief executive

By Anthony Fletcher

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Efsa European union European parliament European commission European food safety authority

EFSA's appointment of Catherine Geslain-Laneelle as its new chief
executive comes at a critical time for Europe's food safety

The organisation has had to deal with a move to Parma, Italy, and has faced ongoing criticism that it cannot achieve true independence.

But Geslain-Laneelle believes that EFSA can be a significant force in food safety. Involved since its creation, she says that her aim is to consolidate and build on the authoritys achievements.

"Independence does not mean absence of dialogue,"​ she said.

"I very much look forward to joining EFSA and to help this young organisation consolidate its strengths and build a successful future. I will seek to encourage dialogue at all levels."

Geslain-Laneelle will take over from Geoffrey Podger, who stepped down last year to take up a new post as chief executive of the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Podger became the first executive director of the European Food Safety Authority on 1 February 2003 and was appointed by the EFSA management board following an open competition across the European Union.

Geslain-Laneelle will now take up from where Podger left off. She said that streamlining the authoritys work would be a key focus.

"Much can be gained for the European public by networking with Member States to handle the heavy scientific workload and face potential budgetary constraints,"​ she said. "I am committed to enhancing the transparency of the Authoritys working processes and to keeping the public informed through effective risk communications."

Stuart Slorach, chair of EFSA's management board, said he was delighted with the appointment.

"EFSA is at a critical stage in its development and I am confident that Catherine has both the professional and personal qualities required to lead the Authority through this important phase,"​ he said.

Essentially, EFSA rests on four pillars: the management board, the executive director, an advisory forum composed of member states, and the scientific committee and eight panels. The job of the experts, selected from around the globe, is to carry out an extensive risk assessment, from which to formulate a scientific opinion.

Once created, the opinion returns back to the risk managers, such as the European Commission or European Parliament. While the majority of questions have so far emanated from the Commission, Parliament and member states have started to approach EFSA.

The authority has already provided evidence on a range of issues such as sodium intake, the safety of aspartame, farmed fish and various food additives.

The European Commission, the European Parliament and Member States rely on EFSA as an independent and transparent risk assessment process as a basis for taking informed risk management decisions.

Geslain-Laneelle will begin work in her new role on 1 July 2006 for a 5-year term.

Related topics Science Food safety & quality

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