Assessment of risk means evaluating how probable it is that a hazard about which we have knowledge will result in a detrimental effect. In addition, we need to assess the relative severity of the detrimental effect.
The need for risk assessment may, for example, occur when it has been discovered that a food or animal feed has a high content of a hazardous substance, because the authorities want to develop new regulations in a specific area, or because they wish to provide evidence-based advice to consumers.
The Norwegian Food Safety Authority or the Norwegian Environment Agency takes the initiative of deciding that a risk assessment is required. VKM designs the assignment in dialogue with the client, and decides which panel or panels should make the assessment. The Norwegian Food Safety Authority puts many of the mandates to VKM out for consultation. In some cases, VKM itself may initiate a risk assessment (self-tasking).
VKM describes the hazard that has been identified, evaluates the possible effects, and calculates the exposure level. The risk is determined by combining the likelihood of a detrimental effect occurring and the severity of the possible damage that would be caused.
The panels or the scientific steering committee are professionally responsible for the risk assessments. If necessary, external experts are also invited to participate. Scientific staff in the secretariat are project managers for the risk assessments.
Completed risk assessments are delivered to the Norwegian Food Safety Authority or the Norwegian Environment Agency within a prescribed deadline. When the deadline expires, the risk assessment is published on the VKM website.
In assessing risk, we review, compile, and evaluate available scientific documentation. We describe the risk, assess potential effects, and calculate exposure levels.
The scientific information and data that VKM uses in its risk assessments comes from peer-reviewed scientific articles and published documents, including risk assessments from national or international bodies, and from national and international surveillance and monitoring. For assessment applications for approval of a particular item or product, VKM also reviews documentation submitted by the applicant.
Risk assessments conducted by VKM follow the current international standards and methodology in the respective fields of responsibility of VKM’s panels.
VKM is organized as an independent body, fulfilling the national requirement for independent, transparant and open scientific risk assessments.
The risk assessments are used when giving advice to the relevant ministries, when choosing measures to take and as a part of the background for developing new laws and regulations.