EFSA Focal Point: BfR co-ordinates health risk assessment on the national level
In its role as a central, national Focal Point, BfR co-ordinates the exchange of scientific information between the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the public authorities responsible for food and feed safety in Germany, stakeholders from economic, political and scientific circles and representatives of consumer associations.
Focal Points were set up in 2008 in all Member States of the European Union (EU) and in the associated countries Island and Norway. The task of the EFSA Focal Points is to support the members of the EFSA Advisory Board which is the interface between the national authorities in Member States and EFSA itself. The President of BfR, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, is the German member on the Advisory Board. In this context, the risk assessment activities of the individual Member States are to be co-ordinated on the European level. The goal of these measures is to bundle existing European knowledge about health risks associated with foods and, in this way, to place food safety in Europe on the highest possible scientific level.
In Germany BfR has been appointed as the EFSA Focal Point for this scientific co-ordination work. BfR was proposed by the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). As the national co-ordination office BfR is an important mediator between EFSA and the competent federal ministries: the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL), the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG) and the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The remit of EFSA extends to the area of activities of the federal institutions within the portfolios of these federal ministries and the following institutions (so-called Article-36-organizations pursuant to Article 36 Regulation (EC) No. 178/2002):
- Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)
- Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL)
- German Nutrition Society (DGE)
- Friedrich Loeffler Institute, Federal Research Institute for Animal Health (FLI)
- Julius Kühn Institute, Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants (JKI)
- Max Rubner Institute, Federal Institute for Nutrition and Food (MRI)
- Robert Koch Institute (RKI)
- Federal Environmental Agency (UBA)
BfR also has contacts to the federal state ministries responsible for monitoring activities in consumer protection. Scientific institutions involved in Germany in tracing, identifying, assessing and managing risks in the areas of food, feed, animal welfare and plant health are included in this exchange of information. The objective is to channel German expert knowledge to a greater degree into European level
Activities of the BfR as national EFSA Focal Point in Germany
Exchange of information
As the EFSA Focal point in Germany, the BfR ensures the exchange of scientific information on initiatives, ongoing proceedings, research projects, risk assessment findings and risk communication relating to foods, feed and the other topics in the remit of EFSA. One of the vehicles for this exchange of scientific information is EFSA´s Knowledge Junction., which offers open access to scientific models and tools.
The national EFSAFocal Points and EFSA organise several joint meetings every year on European level. The Focal Points submit regular reports on their activities to EFSA, and these individual reports are summarised in an annual report (EFSA Focal Point Report).
In its capacity as EFSA Focal Point, the BfR answers questions from the Member States on risk assessment or passes these questions on to the competent ministries, authorities or institutions. In 2012, the BfR joined forces with the EFSA Focal Points in France and Denmark to stage a crisis symposium focusing on crisis prevention in the field of food safety. The BfR organises and stages Focal Point meetings on national level on a regular basis. The BfR takes part in public consultations of EFSA and informs German institutions about ongoing consultations. The BfR participates in EFSA crisis exercises and helps to promote the exchange of information within Europe in the event of national food crises.
Coordination of Article 36 organisations
Pursuant to Article 36 of Regulation (EC) 178/2002, Article 36 organisations are institutions that support EFSA in the performance of its duties, among other things by participating in calls for proposals for research projects for which EFSA can provide funding assistance. As national EFSA Focal Point, the BfR informs these organisations about requests from EFSA to submit suggestions and, where necessary, helps them to file their applications.
Creation of expert networks
The BfR has 15 scientific committees to advise the institute in the areas of food, feed, chemical and product safety as well as risk communication and to advise the German Centre for the Protection of Laboratory Animals (Bf3R). The expertise of this established network is not only called upon in times of crisis but also when scientific questions are addressed on European level. The BfR committees pool expertise of the highest scientific standard for the risk assessments of the BfR and share this expertise in international bodies - also in the EFSA bodies, for example. The structure of the committees at the BfR is mainly based on the structure of EFSA's scientific panels. The members of EFSA's scientific panels from Germany can automatically also become members of the corresponding BfR committees. This ensures the widest possible exchange of expertise between national and European level.
In the area of risk communication, the BfR works closely with EFSA and the Member States of the EU. Risk communication is an essential part of the work of the EFSA Focal Point. The job of the BfR is to enter into dialogue with various target groups in Germany and to inform the public in Germany at an early stage about potential risks to health as well as the insights gained and the findings of work in Europe. As a member of EFSA's Communication Experts Network (CEN) the BfR initiates national communication strategies and is involved in the joint communication initiatives of EFSA.
Publication of the "EU Food Safety Almanach"
The EU Food Safety Almanach has been published in regularly updated versions since 2009 and provides an overview of the European institutions and the competent state authorities for food and feed safety in the Member States of the EU as well as the associated states of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland and the EU candidate states. The country profiles in the brochure provide a brief and well-structured overview of the main authorities and expert committees as well as their functions in the state legal system. The brochure serves as a source of information and a reference work for all those who are interested in information on the legal structures and institutions in the field of food and feed safety in Europe, in particular specialists in the practical sphere like parliamentarians, employees of food authorities, the media, consumer associations, the food industry and science. The BfR was supported in the preparation of the EU Almanach by the EFSA Focal Points of the Member States and EFSA. The EU Almanac is available in several language versions on the BfR website and can be downloaded or ordered directly from the BfR free of charge.
German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment
EFSA Focal Point
Tel.: +49 30 18412 34009