March 07
2021
Anjum Shabbir
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22nd February 2021
Consumer, Health & Environment Institutional law

Ombudsman finds no maladministration in EFSA pesticide-information leak case

The European Ombudsman ended an eight-month investigation and made a Decision dated 12 February 2021 finding no maladministration in case 1107/2020/NH on the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) alleged leak of confidential information on an active substance used in pesticides.

The complainants (two pesticide producers) in the matter had alleged in June 2020 that EFSA leaked an unredacted confidential letter they sent to EFSA as part of a process of renewing the approval of that active substance (mancozeb) to French newspapers (Le Parisien, Le Monde), which consequently published articles referring to the letter. This was said to be an unauthorised disclosure of confidential information by EFSA’s staff members, EFSA also not being objective and impartial in its statements to the press.

However, the Ombudsman closed the inquiry finding that EFSA had not committed any maladministration:

  • the letter had been sent to other actors as well (the European Commission and national authorities) – therefore there was no evidence the leaks had come from an EFSA staff member;
  • there was nothing suggesting EFSA lacked proper safeguards against leaks;
  • EFSA had not breached its duties to be objective and impartial – EFSA was entitled to be as transparent as possible where pesticide-substance renewals impacting public health were concerned –  requests for confidential treatment of information in this field being an exception to the principle of proactive public disclosure.

The Ombudsman closed the inquiry with the finding that there had been no maladministration by EFSA in this case.

For more detailed information on the inquiry and the Ombudsman’s decision, click here.

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