15 BfR Committees acting as honorary and independent expert bodies advise the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in the field of food, feed, chemical and product safety. These committees pool the existing expertise in Germany at the highest scientific level. With their scientific expertise, they also serve as an expert network that is on hand to advise the Institute in times of crisis.
The BfR Committees usually convene twice a year. Each committee comprises at least ten experts who are appointed for a period of four years following an open invitation and application process. Committee members are under an obligation to maintain confidentiality vis-à-vis third parties and to perform their duties in an impartial manner. Any conflicts of interest relating to any items dealt with at the meeting are transparently identified and disclosed. The minutes outline the scientific opinion of the BfR Committee in question. The recommendations of the BfR Committees are solely of an advisory nature. The BfR Committees themselves do not issue any directives or publish any expert opinions. They are not authorised to issue instructions to the BfR, nor are they subject to the instructions of the BfR or involved in their risk assessments.
The fourth appointment period of the BfR Committees started in January 2018. A total of 210 people were appointed as experts for the period from 2018 to 2021 by the appointing panel set up specifically for this purpose following a public call for applications and a selection process.
- Consumer Products
- Assessment of Intoxications
- Biological Hazards and Hygiene (In 2018 the BfR Committee for Biological Hazards and the BfR Committee for Hygiene merged to the BfR Committee for Biological Hazards and Hygiene)
- Nutrition, Dietetic Products, Novel Foods and Allergies
- Evidence-Based Methods in Risk Assessment (up to 2017: BfR Committee for Exposure Assessment and Exposure Standardisation)
- Feed and Animal Nutrition
- Genetically Modified Food and Feed
- Contaminants in the Food Chain (up to 2017: BfR Committee for Contaminants and Other Undesirable Substances in the Food Chain)
- Food additives, Flavourings and Processing Aids
- Pesticides and Biocidal Products (up to 2017: BfR Committee for Pesticides and their Residues)
- Pharmacologically Active Substances and Veterinary Medicinal Products
- Risk Research and Risk Perception
- Wine and Fruit Juice Analyses
Other expert committees
Alongside these newly appointed BfR Committees, the National Breastfeeding Committee will still be attached to the BfR until 31 March 2019. From 1 April 2019 onward, the National Breastfeeding Committee will be affiliated with the Max Rubner Institute (MRI).
Four appointment procedures (2007, 2010, 2013, and 2017) have been carried out since the BfR Committees were first established. In order to ensure that the appointment procedure is transparent, a public call is issued to apply to serve as an expert on a BfR Committee. Suitable experts are then selected by an appointing panel set up specifically for this purpose. The appointing panel is made up of the members of the Scientific Advisory Board of the BfR, the Chairpersons of the Senate Committees for the Health Assessment of Foods and the Max Rubner Institute (MRI), and representatives of the Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL).
The appointing panel named a total of 210 experts as BfR Committee members for the period 2018 to 2021. They come from universities and other research institutions, national and federal state (Länder) authorities, trade and consumer associations, industrial companies and non-governmental organisations. Overall, 53% of the experts come from universities, 27% from authorities such as the federal research institutions and regional Land investigation offices, 16% from companies and industrial associations, and 3% from non-governmental organisations. 92% of committee members are of German nationality, while 8% are non-Germans. 37% of committee members are women, 63% are men.
Most of the committee members have a post-graduate university degree and many years of professional experience in the relevant fields of science. 31% are below the age of 50; the majority (69%) are older. Selection was made under consideration of the principle of equal treatment of women and men. The list of members of the BfR Committees can be viewed on the BfR website.
Independence and transparency
The experts appointed to the BfR Committees undertake to provide impartial advice to the BfR. To this end, the members sign a corresponding declaration of transparency and voluntary commitment which is published on the internet. The details provided in the declarations constitute self-disclosure, and the committee members are responsible for the content of the declarations. At the start of each committee meeting, the members are polled verbally and in writing about current topics which could conflict with their own interests. The results are recorded in the minutes.
The minutes of the meetings detailing the outcome of the deliberations of the BfR Committee in question can be viewed on the BfR website. The recommendations of the committees are solely of an advisory nature; the committees are not involved in the statutory tasks of the BfR (such as risk assessment).
Exchange with national and international bodies
The opinions published by the BfR ensure that the consolidated expertise of the BfR Committees can also be shared with national and international bodies such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The BfR Committees reflect this in the areas in which the responsibilities and expertise of EFSA correspond to those of the BfR. German members of the scientific committees of EFSA can automatically become members of the corresponding BfR Committees, thus facilitating the greatest possible exchange of expertise between the national and European levels.