With independence and transparency to improved consumer protection

As of today he heads the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment: Professor Andreas Hensel, veterinarian and hygienist, expert in the field of microbiology, molecular biology and infectiology. The woman who introduced him to his new office is the person who was responsible for launching the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment last November: Federal Minister Renate Künast. By separating risk assessment and risk communication from risk management she took the courageous step of creating a scientific institution independent of political, economic and social interests. With his new position Andreas Hensel has also taken up this challenge. By means of competence and transparency, he intends to strengthen consumer protection and raise BfR to the standing of an internationally renowned scientific body in the field of risk assessment.

 "Avoiding crises before they happen" is how Hensel describes the guiding principle for his work. He stresses the need to distinguish carefully between existing knowledge and any gaps in knowledge in the event of a crisis. The most important task of the Institute will, therefore, be to identify early on possible risks from foods, feedstuffs, substances and products and propose suitable measures in order to reduce them quickly and sustainably. By contrast, the monitoring of foods and products is not one of the Institute's tasks. It remains the responsibility of the federal states. The expert examination and assessment of global information and data on hidden risks will be supplemented in BfR by research of its own. In order to achieve more safety of foods, feedstuffs, substances and products, the Institute will work on the international stage and in close cooperation with the new European Food Safety Authority.

The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment advises the Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture and other federal ministries on scientific issues. The Institute works indirectly (through the legislator) and also directly for the consumer. Consumer safety has the highest priority. Consumers are to be involved and supplied with comprehensive information. Only an informed consumer has the freedom to decide for himself which risks he wishes to take and which he does not. Consumers and consumer representatives will, therefore, play an important role in BfR. In the same way as politicians, scientists and members of the business community, they will be represented on the Institute's committees and given an opportunity to input their knowledge into the assessment work. BfR wants to take this one step further and approach those consumers who, up to now, have not shown an active commitment. In this way, the Institute seeks to ensure that its work is tailored to the needs of consumers.

Given the inundation with "expert" opinions, BfR aims to provide exhaustive and scientifically sound information at the right time. Consumers are entitled to receive answers to their questions whenever possible. But the boundaries of science must also be communicated in an open manner. Risk communication in BfR will involve consumers and consumer representatives and be carried out in cooperation with other national and international risk assessment bodies.

 "I would be delighted", commented the President of BfR, "if we were to succeed in winning back the trust of consumers in food safety by means of independent scientific competence, consistent transparency and through involving consumers in risk assessment".

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