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Improving food safety risk assessment in the EU

Portrait of Ullrika Sahlin outdoors. Photo
Ullrika Sahlin. Photo: Kenneth Ruona

Ullrika Sahlin, a CEC researcher specialising in Computational Science for Health and Environment (COSHE) research, recently completed a mission for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA's scientific experts learned how to express uncertainty in a clear way.

EFSA was set up in 2002 in the wake of crises of confidence in food safety. Its mandate is to carry out scientific assessments of risks related to food for humans and other organisms. It provides scientific advice and answers questions from decision-makers in Brussels and the EU member states.

Ullrika Sahlin is an expert in risk assessment and has integrated expert elicitation — a method of gathering and using expert knowledge — into EFSA's scientific assessment processes. 

"Expert elicitation methods are still evolving. EFSA is now building a methodology based on sustainable principles for describing uncertainty and researching how experts can best express their uncertainty in a quantitative way," says Ullrika Sahlin.

The collaboration included international researchers from the UK, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain and Australia, and Sahlin worked with EFSA to formulate the content of the training.

"It is crucial that we can express uncertainties in an understandable way"

"Working with EFSA has been a unique opportunity to directly influence how uncertainties are handled in scientific assessments. It is crucial that we can express uncertainties in an understandable way so that decision-makers can make informed decisions," says Ullrika Sahlin.

The methods from Sahlin's work with EFSA are documented in a report available on EFSA's website, which contributes to a better understanding of uncertainty management in the EU food safety system. For Ullrika Sahlin, the work also provided new methodological challenges that she brings back to her research area at CEC.

The report Online training courses on Expert Knowledge Elicitation (EKE) —