Doctor Bernhard Url is the new chief of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) after its management board confirmed the acting-chief as its next executive director this week.
Dr Url won European Parliament and European Commission backing after the EFSA management board headed by Sue Davies put the veterinarian forward as its candidate of choice in March.
He has been acting head of the Parma, Italy-based agency since last September when Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle left to take a position in a French government agency. He officially takes over on June 1.
"On behalf of EFSA’s Management Board, it gives me great pleasure to appoint Bernhard Url as EFSA’s next executive director. We have great confidence that in the years to come Bernhard will lead EFSA and its staff to provide Europe with the best scientific advice to protect consumers from food-related risks,” Davies said in an announcement EFSA’s 400+ staff in Parma.
“The Board looks forward to working closely with him over the next five years.”
Dr Url referenced transparency and trust in his welcoming statement.
“I commit myself to working with staff, scientific experts, European institutions, member states and stakeholders to uphold EFSA’s core values and to work towards more open risk assessment and further building trust.”
When Dr Url presented his case and took questions at the European Parliament last month, he broached the transparency and conflicts of interest attacks (COI) on the agency.
"EFSA in 2014 does not have a problem with conflict of interest, but with perceived conflicts of interest,” he told the parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) committee.
“To address these concerns, a transparency boost is needed, to complement the impartiality safeguards that are in place. Guiding principle should be 'open risk assessment’, covering the entire life cycle of the risk assessment process."
He said all COI declarations were posted on the EFSA website and could be viewed by anyone. "EFSA has a breach of trust procedure, that has been applied about four or five times.”
Responding to questions about public trust in food in the wake of the horsemeat and e.coli problems, Dr Url acknowledged, "EFSA has a problem with some parts of civil society".
Previous to joining EFSA full time in mid-2012, Dr Url spent 10 years as managing director of the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). But he had a role on the management board since 2008.
He will officially take up his new post from 1st June.
Dr Url graduated from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna in 1987 and became a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine in 1990. He has published work on listeria and milk hygiene in the veterinary area.