Consumer concerns about food safety and their level of confidence in the information provided on the subject are a major challenge for European politicians and scientists. In responding to this challenge, everything rests upon the reliability of the information provided by research. The important role awarded to food quality and safety in the Sixth Framework Programme is not only a very desirable development but also a very timely one, with a view to a coherent approach to this issue within the European Research Area.
The particularly complex scientific issues at stake in this sector require co-operative research and shared expertise if coherent answers are to be provided to the questions raised. The multinational and international projects and networking encouraged by the new Framework Programme for R&D meet this requirement. Increased coordination between research programmes will also make it possible to define the objectives of the scientists engaged in this work, while the mobility of researchers and access to resources will ultimately help to create a genuine community of researchers working in this area in Europe.
Organising such a vast and ambitious co-operative effort will require efficient management and the production of tangible statistics, the high quality of which must be demonstrated. The priority given to research on food safety and quality differs to other more exclusively technological research areas, as in this case the sector's 'final' customers are European consumers themselves. Integrating research in this context involves more than encouraging interaction between European researchers and multidisciplinary projects. At the end of the day, it is not enough to undertake 'good scientific research'. To increase food safety and consumer confidence, the results must be used effectively by translating them into policy, and must also be backed up by sufficient and open communication. This means that, apart from the limited community of researchers, the programme must be transparent to consumers and other users – from programme and project development through to accessing the results.
Sir John Krebs
President of the Food Standards Agency (UK)