Call for public investment in food safety research

By Joseph James Whitworth contact

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: iStock/hynci
Picture: iStock/hynci
Authorities from all 28 EU Member States, Iceland and Norway have called for more public investment in food safety research.

The Advisory Forum, which advises the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on scientific issues, also stressed the benefits of increased interaction between funders, EU agencies and national partners.

The forum is made up of representatives of the national food safety authorities of EU Member States, Iceland and Norway.

EFSA and the Advisory Forum also called for the formation of partnerships in food safety such as European Joint Programmes, European Research Infrastructure Consortia (ERICs) and other initiatives.

Research in food safety

Action came before the first Risk Assessment Research Assembly (RARA) which brought together national research organisations, funders and policy makers to share ideas and explore opportunities for research in food safety.

RARA participants registered 48 research ideas which were matched with one of the 28 food safety risk assessment areas of priority for research identified by Member States and EFSA as part of the EU Risk Assessment Agenda (EU RAA).

These included determination of allergen thresholds (clinical studies), with immune-chemical measurements of allergens in foods; Model for the survival of Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) in aged cheese; Strengthen microbial Next Generation Sequencing in Europe and a rapid risk assessment tool for introduction of zoonotic and foodborne diseases.

Stef Bronzwaer, research coordinator at EFSA who spoke at the event, said it was the first attempt to start a dialogue ahead of establishing partnerships and building consortia.

“EFSA has a large remit and our work covers a broad area. We did not identify specific gaps but the research conducted has to inform risk managers and policy makers and make a lasting impact on food safety,” ​he told FoodQualityNews.

“Research projects generate data which can be used in risk assessments to inform food safety. Public funding is important to increase the trust of the audience. It was a good overview and we saw good research projects are ongoing at EU and national level and there are synergies.

“With public private partnerships, emphasis can be not enough on the public to inform policy making to guarantee an impact. Food safety was on the agenda but 15 years after BSE it is not so visible on research agendas. Different incidents happen and we have to be prepared and not wait for them.”

Bronzwaer added the topic will be part of the EFSA conference in Parma from 18-21 September this year. 

RARA audience

The event in Utrecht yesterday (Wednesday) was attended by DG SANTE; RIKILT, Wageningen; Food Safety Authority of Ireland; Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) and the Hellenic Food Authority (EFET).

Public funding bodies included COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) Association, The European Phytosanitary Research and Coordination network (Euphresco) and the Spanish Scientific Agency (Agencia Estatal de Investigación, AEI).

Bernhard Url, EFSA’s executive director, said there is a compelling case for public funding in food safety research.

“We must not forget that research and innovation among and within Member States ultimately feeds into the risk assessments that we carry out at an EU level, which are the basis for public health policies in Europe,”​ he said before the event.

“The first RARA is a great opportunity for researchers to share their proposals, discover others working on similar projects, and meet with funding bodies that can help turn their ideas into reality.”

Issues around food integrity and authenticity call to invest more in the public control, assessment and preparedness functions to ensure safety of the system and safeguard consumer confidence in the food supply, added EFSA and its advisory forum.

Related topics: R&D, Shelf life, Data management

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