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Politics

Food safety body is bound to draw fire

You draw attention to accusations of industry ties at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the role these have in public and political debates (Nature 485, 279–280 and 294–295; 2012). Yet the independent nature of this agency means that it will always draw fire.

The agency was formed in the wake of the late-1990s BSE crisis to restore public trust and consumer confidence in nutrition, food science and politics in Europe. Paradoxically, its creation has led to a proliferation of interest groups and has strengthened ties between academia and industry, further politicizing science.

Through its evaluations of health claims on food products, EFSA's mandate demands judgement, thereby inviting scrutiny, critique and protest from all sides. Examples include criticism from gut-health scientists for EFSA's rejection of claims about pro- and prebiotics, and from non-governmental organizations for its acceptance of genetically modified crops. This makes any meaningful separation between science and politics impossible.

Forced to make decisions, EFSA is bound to be constantly criticized, just as politicians are.

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Correspondence to Kim Hendrickx.

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Hendrickx, K., Penders, B. Food safety body is bound to draw fire. Nature 485, 582 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/485582d

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