Saturday

1st Oct 2016

EU commission: OK for food lobbyist to run food regulator

  • Frewen wants the job because of her 'personal interest' as a 'scientist' (Photo: Masahiro Ihara)

The European Commission has defended its choice of a food industry lobbyist to help run its food regulator, the European Food Safety Agency (Efsa) in Parma, Italy.

The commission on 10 February chose Mella Frewen - the president of Brussels-based lobby group FoodDrinkEurope, who previously worked for Monsanto, a US producer of genetically modified food - as one of 14 candidates to join the Efsa management board.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

If selected by a European Parliament jury in the next few weeks, she will keep her FoodDrinkEurope post while doing the unpaid Efsa job.

Commission spokesman Frederic Vincent said Frewen went forward "based on capability" and under an Efsa rubric which says the board should have people with a "background in organisations representing consumers and other interests in the food chain."

Efsa spokesman Ian Palombi said the board runs day-to-day internal business, but the scientific panels that decide which products get the green light are composed of "independent experts."

For her part, Lisa McCooey, FoodDrinkEurope communications director, said she does not see a conflict of interest: "If elected onto the board of Efsa ... Mrs. Frewen would partake in its work in a personal capacity and not on behalf of any interests - industry or otherwise."

McCooey added that Frewen wants the job due to her "personal interest" in Efsa as a "scientist."

Frewen has a masters in marine ecology from the National University of Ireland.

The commission nomination was brought to light by pro-transparency NGO Corporate Europe Observatory. The group's Nina Holland said that if picked Frewen will replace outgoing board member Matthias Horst, a top lobbyist for German food producers.

"It's a bit more than having 'a background in the food industry' - that's a being a food lobbyist. It's a very strange set-up," she noted. "The board decides on Efsa's work programme and on internal rules, like conflict of interest, and also who is on the scientific panels. It has a lot of power," she added.

Efsa on Monday (5 March) published new rules on the 'independent' panels after attracting controversy last year.

A report by German paper Suddeutsche Zeitung noted that one Efsa panelist who worked for Kraft Foods, Albert Flynn, was involved in getting a positive decision for a Kraft Foods claim. Another panelist, Carlo Agostoni, was paid by food companies Nestle, Danone, Heinz, Hipp, Humana and Mead Johnson to speak at conferences .

In a separate Efsa panel dealing with the health impact of chemicals used by the food industry, 10 out of 13 experts had industry links.

The Court of Auditors is to issue a report on conflict of interest at Efsa and three other EU bodies by the end of June. Monica Macovei, an MEP tasked with looking into how the agencies spend their money, has threatened not to sign off Efsa accounts if the findings are negative.

EU Council is 'black hole' in public trust

The EU Council, its most powerful institution, is a “black hole” unto the general public, hampering efforts to regain trust, a leading NGO has said.

EU commission presents 'realistic' lobbying rules

The EU executive called for more stringent regulation of interest representatives trying to influence EU decision making. Critics say the 'transparency revolution' is being blocked by the European Parliament and EU member states.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EFAEFA Supports a YES Vote in the Hungarian Referendum
  2. ACCAFinTech Boom Needs Strong Guidance to Navigate Regulatory Hurdles
  3. Counter BalanceWhy the Investment Plan for Europe Does not Drive the Sustainable Energy Transition
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region Seeks to Make Its Voice Heard in the World
  5. Taipei EU OfficeCountries Voice Support for Taiwan's Participation in ICAO
  6. World VisionNew Tool Measuring Government Efforts to Protect Children Released
  7. GoogleDid You Know Europe's Largest Dinosaur Gallery Is in Brussels? Check It Out Now
  8. IPHRHuman Rights in Uzbekistan After Karimov - Joint Statement
  9. CISPECloud Infrastructure Providers Unveil Data Protection Code of Conduct
  10. EFAMessages of Hope From the Basque Country and Galicia
  11. Access NowDigital Rights Heroes and Villains. See Who Protects Your Rights, Who Wants to Take Them Away
  12. EJCAppalled by Recommendation to Remove Hamas From EU Terrorism Watch List