“Cooperation is at the core of everything we do at EFSA” states European Food Safety Association executive director, Bernhard Url in the foreword of the 2015 report on scientific cooperation. The document continues with details on EFSA activities over the previous year, including a risk assessment study implemented by the Advisory Forum to identify current priorities for food safety.
Guided by the principle of “Trusted science for safe food”, departments within EFSA conducted various activities encouraging cooperation among European Union member states. These included development of communications guidelines for crisis management and reports from the Focal Point Network that interfaces with national food safety regulators, research, consumer groups and other stakeholders for practical implementation of scientific findings.
In addition to these activities, the Advisory Forum undertook an assessment of food safety priorities affecting member states. The forum initiated a Delphi study; this included three rounds of surveys involving more than 200 experts who identified and rated current and developing priorities in food safety. Focusing on four broad areas of concern—chemical, medical, microbiological, environmental—the surveys identified 28 priority topics of concern affecting food safety within Europe. Summarized in Annex A of the report, the priorities cover a wide range of subjects. In addition to a call to develop systems for identifying emerging risks and methods for measuring cumulative exposures across different sources including food, priorities included the following (here including links to coverage of these topics on Examining Food for further discussion).
- Risks and benefits assessment of botanicals and herbals as food supplements
- Allergens within foodstuffs
- Effects of cumulative exposure through foodstuffs, environment and other sources
- Exposure through infant and baby foods
- New and emerging contaminants
- Monitoring and characterization of microbes involved in outbreaks of foodborne disease
- Use genetic data for risk assessments
- Antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance issues
- Microbial food pathogens in general, including foodborne viruses, such as Hepatitis A and norovirus strains, and campylobacter in poultry and ready-to-eat foods
- Examine the use of RNAi (ribonucleic acid interference) in pest control, veterinary medicine and from genetically modified crops
- Use of alternatives (plant substances, biological organisms) to minimize pesticide use in improving agricultural practices
- Environmental contaminants (domestic, agricultural, industrial sources)
- Allergen thresholds in food
- Examine the risks and benefits of food supplements in nutrition
The key message throughout the EFSA 2015 report is that collaboration with member states and with global partners is the answer to maintaining food safety for populations. In addition to domestic collaborations, EFSA was also active in global collaborations including participation in a Symposium of WHO’s Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) on “The global burden of foodborne diseases”. The organization also shares knowledge with a number of international bodies including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the National Institute of Health among others. As summarized in a promotional video, Food safety knows no borders , pooling resources ensures that EFSA and organizations like it can deliver high quality advice on food safety to consumers and industry members at home and abroad.
For further discussion of food safety and quality issues, visit of Food and Beverage Learning Center.
1. Scientific Cooperation Annual Report 2015 of the European Food Safety Authority http://www.efsa.europa.eu/sites/default/files/corporate_publications/files/scientificcooperation15ar.pdf