ANSES: two years of work dedicated to health and safety
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News of 02/07/2012
2 July 2012
Created in July 2010 through the merger of AFSSA and AFSSET, ANSES (French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety) takes stock of its two years of activity. The new Agency has set up an innovative form of governance and established its ability to handle complex and often controversial health topics. With 4000 Opinions and Reports published, ANSES is the embodiment of a new integrated health and science approach. This new model provides an all-encompassing view of the risks humans - both the general public and workers - are subjected to in their environment, including animal and plant health.
Bisphenol A, risks regarding weight-loss practices, antimicrobial resistance, food contaminants, bee health, energy drinks, green algae, light-emitting diode lamps (LEDs), asbestos, artificial sweeteners, the effectiveness of worker protection equipment, radio frequencies, nanomaterials and workers' exposure to pesticides: The Agency has forged its identity thanks to a series of major expert assessments which were both newsworthy and impacted the international scientific community.
These examples, which are proof of the Agency's ability to redefine the rules in France and in Europe, are only part of its work. In two years, over 4000 opinions, studies and reports have been published. ANSES has also demonstrated the responsiveness of its reference and research laboratories in crisis situations, as in June 2011 during the serious food poisoning episode linked to E. coli in Germany and France, and in late 2011 during the emergence of the Schmallenberg virus which affected ruminant farms in France. In parallel, the Agency has promoted international relations, working in close collaboration with its European counterparts (EFSA, ECHA, EMA, German, British and Danish agencies, etc.). Agreements have also been signed with the US Food & Drug Administration, Health Canada, etc.
This strong position in France and abroad establishes a new model for health and safety agencies, and one which is the outcome of major cooperation efforts on the part of all the stakeholders - NGOs, associations, social partners, professional organisations, elected officials and ministries. The model is one based on an integrated approach to scientific and health issues which includes expertise and research and which makes it possible to globally apprehend all of the risks humans are faced with in their general environment, including animal and plant health. This initiative is an integral part of the Agency's founding principles: strong values regarding scientific excellence, independence, prevention of conflicts of interest and transparency, as well as open, innovative governance characterised by heightened involvement of all representatives of civil society.
The noteworthy innovations include: the creation of an independent Committee for ethical standards and prevention of conflicts of interest whose opinions are made public; discussion on the strategic guidelines with stakeholders; and formalisation of the Agency's expertise methodology and its validation by the Scientific Board, which guarantee the traceability of sources and of all the stages in the expert assessment process.
On this second anniversary, ANSES's Director General Marc Mortureux declared: "I wish to pay special tribute to the competence and dedication of ANSES's staff, and of the 800 external experts who participate in expert assessments which are often complex, ground-breaking and characterised by numerous uncertainties. They are the foundation for the collective and adversarial procedure that, governed by strict ethical rules, provides a guarantee of rigorous and independent results".
Faithful to its founding principles, ANSES resolutely pursues its goals while remaining committed to constant improvement. It does so by staying alert both to the stakeholders' concerns and to scientific advances in order to continue to improve the model it embodies.
In the coming months, the Agency will publish various reports and opinions on topics including endocrine disruptors, radio frequencies and the prioritisation of animal diseases.