There are a number of hazards that may adversely affect the health of humans, animals and plants, including pathogenic microorganisms, chemical substances and physical agents. Exposure can occur in any environment through various sources such as water, air, soil or food. To assess the risks that humans, animals and plants may face, ANSES carries out extensive expert appraisals that involve several steps.
Documenting the hazards we are likely to be exposed to, determining the routes and levels of exposure, and finally, bringing together knowledge of the hazards and exposure to them, the Agency assesses the resulting risk, and qualifies it as far as possible based on identified areas of uncertainty, and where necessary issues recommendations. The Agency’s five main priorities are to:
- Guarantee food safety and quality
The Agency assesses health and nutritional risks throughout the food chain. It evaluates the nutritional properties of substances added to human and animal food, as well as their associated benefits. ANSES monitors food consumption patterns and trends, and identifies populations at risk.
- Assess health risks in the occupational environment
Workers in many fields may be exposed to acute or delayed risks associated with chemical substances such as nanomaterials or asbestos. ANSES studies exposure mechanisms in the occupational setting and the health risks specific to a given profession through specialised assessment methods and innovative tools.
- Assess health risks related to the environment
Health and the environment go hand in hand. The Agency assesses the impact of the environment on human health to better identify health risks associated with environmental pollution of the air, water, or soil. Its areas of interest therefore include cancer and the environment, exposure to biological, chemical and physical agents, regulations on the use of hazardous chemical substances, and so on.
- Contribute to animal health and welfare
Through its risk assessment activities, the Agency contributes to preventing and controlling dominant or emerging animal diseases affecting livestock and wildlife, whether or not these diseases are transmissible to humans. By striving to improve animal health, ANSES also contributes to the protection of public health since a large number of infectious diseases in humans are originally animal diseases (zoonoses).
- Contribute to plant health
ANSES is tasked with assessing plant protection products, fertilisers and growing media before they can be placed on the market, and with monitoring residues of these substances in food and in the environment.
Since 2011, the Agency’s role has included monitoring and alert missions, and collective expert appraisals for assessment of risks to plant health associated with organisms that are harmful to crops and forests. Finally, as part of implementation of current policies aimed at reducing agricultural inputs and fostering sustainable development (Ecophyto Plan 2018), ANSES monitors the emergence of resistance to plant protection products. In all these areas of expertise, ANSES carries out risk assessments in response to questions (formal requests) emanating from public authorities and various stakeholders. The Agency can also issue internal requests on its own initiative when considered necessary. To issue effective public health recommendations, ANSES carries out independent, multidisciplinary, collective and adversarial expert appraisals.
The Agency relies on more than 20 Expert Committees and increasingly integrates the human and social sciences in its scientific expert appraisals. Within ANSES, risk assessments are carried out by teams in the Risk Assessment Department and in the Regulated Products Department, which are tasked with organising and coordinating the activities of the Expert Committees. In their respective areas of expertise, these in-house scientists manage the various risk assessments, from receipt of the formal request through to drafting and publication of the final outcome, in the form of a report and an opinion.