European and international co-operations
Against the backdrop of the increasingly rapid globalisation of the world economy, food, product and chemical safety is an ever more important goal in the European Union. The range of available food and consumer products in Europe is growing all the time, making it all the more important for European countries and the European Union to be in a position to scientifically assess, minimise and effectively communicate risks in the field of food, products and chemicals.
In the field of food and feed safety, the BfR cooperates closely with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). In its capacity as the national Focal Point (EFSA-Focal-Point), BfR coordinates the exchange of scientific information between the EFSA, the competent authorities in Germany and stakeholders from the business community, political circles, the sciences and consumer associations.
The BfR cooperates with numerous national and European sister authorities in the field of consumer health protection, with the emphasis on risk assessment. These activities are creating a network of authorities and institutions in the field of food, product and feed safety, forging links not only between national and European level but also between the institutions in the different member states. In December 2010, for example, the BfR signed a co-operation agreement with the French food safety agency Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimentation, de l’environnement et du travail (ANSES) and the Food Institute of the Danish Tekniske Universitet (DTU). (Press release "BfR, DTU and Anses enter into co-operation agreement")
In our globalised world, the BfR also has good bilateral relations and co-operation agreements with food authorities in many other countries, as food scares are no respecters of national borders. As a result, the intensive exchange of scientific information and co-operation with partner institutions outside the European Union are of paramount importance. And against the backdrop of the free trade agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea, scientific exchange with Korea is also increasingly important. Co-operation agreements have therefore been signed with institutions in the Republic of Korea such as the National Institute of Food & Drug Safety as well as with the Chinese Academy of Inspection and Quarantine (CAIQ) and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) in China.
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Co-operation on European level
- European Commission, Brussels: risk assessment and risk communication are institutionally separate from risk management on EU level. Whereas risk assessments are the job of the European Food Safety Authority, risk management lies in the hands of the European Commission. The Commission also coordinates the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). The EU member states and the European Commission regularly use RASFF to exchange information on food and feed at risk from contamination. (Food safety in the EU)
- European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Parma: EFSA is a cornerstone of the risk assessment process in the European Union in the field of food and feed safety. In close co-operation with national authorities, EFSA conducts independent scientific risk assessments that serve the European Commission as a basis for draft legislation and risk management.
- Joint Research Centres of the European Commission (JRC), Ispra
- European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM), Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP): the European Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) is one of five divisions of the European Institute for Health and Consumer Protection (IHCP) in Ispra, Italy. ECVAM is responsible in Europe for the validation and development of alternative methods symbolised by the three "R"s (Replacement, Reduction, Refinement). ECVAM is advised by the Scientific Advisory Committee (ESAC) made up of representatives of the member states of the European Union.
- Interagency Coordinating Committee for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ICVAM)
- European College of Veterinary Public Health (ECVPH): the ECVPH, founded in 2001, provides scientists with the option of specialising in the fields of population medicine, epidemiology or food safety and pursues an interdisciplinary approach. One example of this is the fight against animal disease and zoonoses. In this area, the candidates are trained and certified as veterinary public health experts, so-called Diplomates.
National sister institutes in the field of food and chemical safety
Against the backdrop of the increasingly rapid globalisation of the world economy, food safety is an ever more important goal in the European Union. The BfR therefore maintains contacts with all 27 EU member states in the field of food safety and chemical safety. Alongside these contacts, the BfR is also involved in special, more extensive co-operation partnerships with various institutions in the member states in the area of the scientific risk assessment of food and feed.
DTU in Denmark
The BfR and the Food Institute of the Danish Tekniske Universitet (DTU) signed a co-operation agreement in December 2010. The BfR and the DTU have similar tasks and employ similar concepts for scientific risk assessment. This co-operation with the DTU (and ANSES) provides for joint projects between laboratories, research institutes and experts in the three countries, timely mutual information on planned scientific statements – to avoid duplication of effort – and on the strategic annual preview.
ANSES in France
The BfR and the French Agence nationale de sécurité sanitaire de l’alimmentation, de l’environment et du travail (ANSES) entered into a co-operation agreement in December 2010. ANSES was created in July 2010 by the merger of two French authorities, the AFSSA food safety authority and the AFSSET environmental agency. The co-operation agreement between BfR, DTU and ANSES paves the way for co-operation in the field of scientific risk assessment and pools core expertise in the areas of risk assessment, communication, research and quality assurance in scientifically based risk communication.
NMVRVl in Lithuania
As the competent specialist authority reporting to the State Food and Veterinary Service (VMVT), Lithuania's National Food and Veterinary Risk Assessment Institute (NMVRVI) is responsible for scientifically based risk assessments, for the identification of new health risks and for making recommendations in the area of risk reduction. The NMVRVI was set up in the context of the German-Lithuanian twinning project "Improved Monitoring of Bacterial Zoonoses and Viral Diseases in Farmyard Poultry". The BfR signed a co-operation agreement with the NMVRVI in October 2008.
AGES in Austria
In December 2006, the BfR signed a co-operation agreement with the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). The remit of AGES includes food and feed safety, novel foods, food supplements, genetically modified organisms, zoonoses, mineral waters and residues of plant protection products and veterinary drugs. The focal points of co-operation are the exchange of scientific information on risk assessment, co-operation within the framework of the national reference laboratories, the implementing of joint research projects and special-topic events and the exchange of personnel to encourage mutual learning (Article on the co-operation agreement)
SGL in Cyprus
The State General Laboratory (SGL) of the Cypriot Health Ministry assesses the risks of some contaminants and other toxic chemicals and advises the Cypriot government on issues relating to food safety and risk assessment. SGL and the BfR signed a co-operation agreement in May 2010. (Article on the co-operation agreement)
The EU Almanac (PDF file,5.66 MB) provides an overview of the competent state authorities and structures in the field of food and feed safety in the European Union.
Adequate knowledge of and the exchange of information between the various food safety institutions on global, European and national level have become ever more important for consumer protection in recent years.
Institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), who publish the Codex Alimentarius, and the International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) work together on global level.
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
- Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)
- European Committee for Standardization (Comité Européen de Normalisation (CEN))
- World Organisation for Animal Health (Office International des Epizooties (OIE))
- International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS)
- International Organisation of Vine and Wine (Organisation Internationale de la Vigne et du Vin (OIV))
The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) set up in April 2001 takes the place of the International Office for Vine and Wine. Professor Wittkowski, Vice-President of the BfR, was elected President of the IOV in 2003 and held this post until 2006. From 2006 to 2009, he was the first Vice-President of the OIV and was named Honorary President of the OIV in July 2009.
Together with the state of Brandenburg, the BfR is supporting modernisation in Russia in the field of food and product safety. The primary aim is to bring the methodological and organisational standards of the Russian inspection authorities into line with those of the European Union and render them fit for the European market. (see press release "German-Russian dialogue on international food safety standards").
In June 2009, the BfR signed a co-operation agreement with its Russian sister authorities for hygiene and epidemiology as well as nutrition.
Twinning projects: cross-border partnerships between authorities
Twinning is an EU-funded instrument designed to promote partnerships between authorities in the EU member states and public administration bodies in accession states as well as for potential accession states and countries of the European neighbourhood.
The goal of twinning projects is always to create public structures that are in line with European administrative practices. During these projects, experts from the national German authorities at federal level and from the regional states are seconded to partner countries for up to two years to implement projects with local experts geared towards such things as creating an authority or making the preparations for new legislation.
In recent years, the BfR has been successfully involved in several twinning projects and handled the coordination of projects focusing on the creation of an institute for risk assessment in the field of food safety. Intensive activities in the country of the twinning partner ensure that scientists are properly trained and help these scientists to implement EU regulations.