Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) recently joined a coalition of nongovernmental organizations in criticizing the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) ahead of the agency’s October 3, 2013, stakeholder meeting on transparency in risk assessment. Led by CEO and backed by groups such as Cancer Prevention and Education Society, Friends of the Earth Europe and GMWatch, the coalition argues in an October 1 open letter that EFSA’s current system for approving food products for market is flawed insofar as the agency’s decisionmaking process relies on confidential dossiers submitted by industry.

In particular, the signatories claim that under international and EU law, EFSA must disclose the contents of these dossiers and should also ensure that the studies used to support its market approvals adhere to the same high standards as those set by peer-reviewed journals. To this end, the coalition recommends that EFSA provide “complete, unrestricted and proactive online publication of applicants’ files,” which should contain data that is accessible and re-publishable as well as details about the protocol and research material used to gather the data, the laboratories that conducted the experiments, and funding sources. The letter also urges the agency to publish all available data, including raw data, in a “usable, editable format (e.g., spreadsheet) in order for the re-analysis work to be possible,” and to publish and keep online “declarations of interest of EFSA’s main experts and employees… for five years after their employment at EFSA has expired.”

“Having the applicant performing and reporting the tests on which its product will be assessed is casting doubt on the validity of the entire decisionmaking process: in such a context, and in the light of EFSA’s institutional and financial limitations, full transparency and public scrutiny is the only real additional defence mechanism available to EFSA against potential capture by industry,” states the letter. “This means providing access not only to the entire content of the applicant’s dossier but also to the interests of the public decision-makers involved (EFSA experts and staff).” See CEO Press Release, October 2, 2013.