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Europe: EFSA improves scientific assessments

European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Scientific Committee has developed three key methodological frameworks to improve the robustness, quality and transparency of the scientific assessments done by EFSA’s 10 sectoral scientific panels.

And scientific methods are the recipes of scientific assessments.

The frameworks are:

1. Weight of evidence – a three-step approach for assembling, weighing and integrating evidence on the basis of its reliability, relevance and consistency.

It considers qualitative and quantitative approaches and provides simplified reporting tools.

2. Biological relevance – a flexible framework that clarifies definitions and concepts and sets criteria for determining the nature/magnitude of an observed effect and for deciding if the effect seen is adverse, beneficial or neither (i.e. relevant for an assessment).

3. Uncertainty – how to assess and combine the limitations in our knowledge at the time of the assessment and identify the data gaps that need filling (to reduce uncertainty).

The first two pillars of this harmonized approach were published recently.

Guidance on uncertainty has been trialed internally at EFSA over the past year.

Based on the experience, it will be fine-tuned and finalized in late 2017/early 2018 to complete the series.

“These three documents are interlinked building blocks that will make our assessments more robust and transparent, founded on the best quality data available, and better able to help decision-makers ensure European food safety,” said Prof Tony Hardy, chair of EFSA’s Scientific Committee.

EFSA will gradually integrate these blueprints for weight of evidence and biological relevance into the daily workings of all of its scientific panels and other scientific groups.

However, the three approaches are interdependent and overlap.

Therefore, the authority will intensify this process once the guidance on uncertainty is complete and following the renewal of EFSA’s Scientific Committee and 10 scientific panels in July 2018.