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Parma, 17/18.10.2019. On October 17-18, EFA attended the 3rd annual EFSA Stakeholder Forum meeting in Parma, Italy.  It is the second such meeting that EFA has participated in since becoming a registered EFSA stakeholder in 2018.

The meeting was held under the title ’Exploring mechanisms for stakeholder engagement‘ and largely focused on trends within EFSA, specifically, the recently updated General Food Law (GFL) and the under-review Stakeholder Engagement Approach.

Engaging stakeholders is key, EFSA Director emphasized

EFSA is currently developing its new strategy for 2027 on better scientific advice. Executive Director Bernhard Url emphasized that better engagement with stakeholders is key in ensuring an agency that provides accessible, understandable, usable and assessable information to the public.

Jaana Husu-Kallio, Chair of EFSA’s Management Board, stressed the importance of addressing the mega-trends affecting the food chain such as climate change with comprehensive solutions. In this respect, participation of stakeholders should be encouraged and actively sought.

Roundtable conversations on how to improve EFSA’s stakeholder engagement

The main part of the meeting consisted of seven thematic round-table conversations in which participants discussed, on a rotating basis, how EFSA’s engagement with stakeholders can become more meaningful. The topics that were discussed included: with whom should EFSA engage; digital solutions for better stakeholder engagement; stakeholder involvement in horizon-scanning; and follow-up mechanisms to report on stakeholders’ contributions.

Participants engaged in shaping the elements of each topic, with a view to reaching a balanced agreement on what can be done to improve EFSA’s work. Some of the most important conclusions of the discussions were:

  • Representativeness of stakeholders should be reinforced, also in geographical terms, to capture the needs of society;
  • EFSA should start anticipating the impact of real-world world evidence in the future engagement with stakeholders;
  • Caution is needed to ensure that bias or specific agendas do not have undue influence on EFSA’s scientific work, which should remain independent;
  • EFSA should consult stakeholders to identify priority issues;
  • EFSA’s digital tools and website can be improved in the way information it is structured and made accessible;
  • Follow-up mechanisms to stakeholders’ contributions should be improved and better systematized according to pre-set criteria;
  • Some procedures such as public consultations should provide for a 2nd stage of input in a format that allows for dialogue.

Mr. Url praised the outcomes of the meeting as very useful and instructive. In his list of takeaways, he included the need for a balanced, topic-based engagement; an increased interaction before, during and after the risk assessment process; a clear and concise communication; and the promotion of trusted science to identify emerging risks.

At EFA we were happy to see EFSA’s interest in improving stakeholder engagement and have the chance to provide input. We would appreciate seeing EFSA further opening its doors and encouraging more health-related organizations in becoming stakeholders.

The full agenda of the meeting can be found here.