Although nutrition is not my field, and I have limited experience with risk assessment in terms of nutrition, I think that the course gave good academic return and had transfer value in terms of risk assessment in general.
Knowledgeable and experienced speakers, some with long experience of working for the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), reviewed the general principles for risk assessment and some toxicology background, clarifying the differences between risk assessment, risk management and communication of risk.
The course focused specifically on nutrition issues, including risk/benefit assessment, the terminology used in setting limits and methods for collecting exposure data.
Other topics were EFSA’s assessments of health claims, risk assessment of nutrition in a historical perspective and methods for performing systematic literature searches.
The course consisted of alternating lectures and work in groups, with the latter included presentations. Group assignments were of such a nature that we could answer them without in-depth knowledge in the field of nutrition, but required careful attention in the preceding lectures. It turned out that the participants worked in all areas of risk consideration and our different experience made for good and interesting discussions.
There was plenty of time and a good atmosphere for questions and discussion during the course, including generous coffee breaks. (There was no evidence that “fear of sugar” had reached Rome – there was plethora of cakes and fruit offered during each break).
I now have a better understanding of the work of both the VKM and EFSA, and that the principles of risk assessment are universal: openness, science-based and methodical.