Wednesday

17th Jul 2019

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

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 agencies rebuked over spending

An MEP tasked with looking at how EU money is spent in the bloc's 24 independent agencies has caused a stir with her preliminary findings on conflicts of interest and questions about whether the agencies are useful.

EU agency under scrutiny for Caribbean trips

MEPs have questioned why the EU environment agency held staff training in the Caribbean and Mediterranean and spent €300,000 on decorating its headquarters with plants.

Magazine

The changing of the guards in the EU in 2019

The four most powerful EU institutions - Commission, Parliament, Council and Central Bank will all have new leaders in the coming ten months. Here is an overview.

Magazine

Explained: What is the European Parliament?

While domestic political parties often use the European Parliament as a dumping ground for unwanted politicians - and a majority of citizens don't bother to vote - the parliament, over the years, has become a dominant force in the EU.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Latest News

  1. PiS & Fidesz claim credit for von der Leyen victory
  2. Von der Leyen faces gender battle for commission posts
  3. EU proposes yearly rule-of-law 'reviews'
  4. Poland 'optimistic' despite new EU law checks
  5. What did we learn from the von der Leyen vote?
  6. Is Golden Dawn's MEP head of a criminal organisation?
  7. Finland rejects call to end sponsorship of EU presidency
  8. MH17 five years on: when will Russia be punished?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us