Last working day of BgVV
31 October 2002 heralds the last working day for around 800 employees of the agency called the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV). The Institute is being dissolved in conjunction with the restructuring of consumer health protection and food safety. In future, its tasks will be assumed by three federal institutions: the Federal Agency for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL, Braunschweig), the Federal Research Agency for Viral Diseases of Animals (BFAV, Insel Riems) and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR, Berlin). The goal of this restructuring is to introduce a clear divide between risk assessment and risk management.
BgVV was established in 1994 as one of the three successor institutions to the Federal Health Office (BGA). It set itself the goal of improving consumer health protection on the national, European and international levels. Against this backdrop, the focus was on the international anchoring of the precautionary principle. In its work spanning some eight years, the Institute chalked up major successes in consumer protection. For instance, thanks to its timely identification of the contamination routes and the introduction and utilisation of graduated catalogues of measures in the food sector, BgVV played an active role in reducing the dioxin burden of the population (by around more than 50% over the last ten years). During the BSE crisis, BgVV was quick to call for timely protection measures which went beyond the measures in force in the EU. On the initiative of BgVV the range of risk materials was extended and the BSE test age for cattle was reduced from 30 months to two years in Germany.
The zoonosis monitoring established in BgVV within an integrated European network today supplies important data on the assessment of the zoonosis situation along the food chain. These data form the basis for scientifically sound, qualitative and quantitative microbiological risk assessment and, furthermore, for the control of important diseases which may be transmitted from animals to man.
By developing and standardising detection methods, important contributions were made both in the microbiological area and in the area of residues and contaminants to analytics. This applies to "new" foodborne pathogens like Campylobacter or verotoxigenic E. coli and to the acrylamide problem; the health relevance of this problem for consumers did not become clear until April of this year. The work by BgVV paved the way for the rapid implementation of initial measures to reduce the burden on the consumer.
The Institute's activities led to numerous recommendations for the protection of consumers and amendments to legal foundations. For instance, through its work in the field of antibiotic resistance development, BgVV made a decisive contribution to the ban now in place on most feed additives or to their use being restricted to a limited period throughout the EU.
With the entry into force of the European Biocide Directive, demands over the years by BgVV for improvements to consumer health protection were finally met in this critical area which had largely been unregulated up to then. The Institute also has an impressive track record when it comes to safeguarding consumer health protection in the food sector. This includes protecting the consumer against misleading information.
In multi-annual integrated projects with industry laboratories, the Centre for Documentation and Evaluation of Alternatives to Animal Experiments (ZEBET) developed the first two alternative methods to animal experiments in the world for regulatory safety toxicology. In 2000 the methods were taken over into European directives and in May 2002 they were given global recognition as the first alternative methods to animal experiments.
On the international stage, too, BgVV can look back on successful scientific cooperation. This applies not only to the elaboration of recommendations for Europe and the laying down of maximum levels but also to its contributions to consumer health protection within the framework of EU chemicals policy and the harmonisation of assessment criteria.
In its capacity as a senior scientific agency in the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture, BgVV soon focused on endeavouring to bring about the open communication of health risks. In recent years, therefore, risk assessments of topical subjects were made available on the Internet to all interested persons.
After the dissolution of BgVV risk assessment and risk communication will be undertaken by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment. The Federal Agency for Consumer Protection and Health Safety will be responsible for risk management. Any work carried out in the field of zoonoses on animal diseases will, in future, be assigned to the Federal Research Agency for Viral Diseases of Animals.