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EFSA says networking is key to emerging risk monitoring

By Helen Glaberson , 03-Nov-2010

Expert opinion and networking will remain a key element to gathering and analysing data of emerging risks in food and feed, according to a new report by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

EFSA’s 15th scientific report: Development and implementation of a system for the early identification of emerging risks in food and feed was issued last week and aimed to review the current situation and outline the objectives, timelines and resources needed by EFSA in order to build a capacity for emerging risks identification.

Systematic approaches

The Parma-based agency said that networking will be key element in gathering and analysing data, taking account of the broad scope of the task, “To this extent, formal networks with MS, EU and international agencies and stakeholders are being established.”

EFSA said that currently only the first step of this process, data monitoring, is partially in place.

Its three main approaches to data monitoring: RASF, the media and trade data was recognised as “limited” but the authority said that they have “been sufficient to enable elaboration of the procedures for the next steps in the emerging risks identification process”.

“As more data sources become accessible, the process will become more effective,” commented EFSA. “Tools will need to be developed to assist in handling increasing amounts of data, particularly for their analysis. From issues identified during this monitoring, detailed case studies on specific issues are being prepared,” added the agency.

EFSA said it is concentrating on food and feed risks during the start up phase and will start to monitor emerging risks in plant health and animal health in 2011 and 2012.

Expert opinion

As part of its strategy to incorporate expert opinion into the emerging risks identification process EFSA organised a 2-day colloquium on emerging risks last month, in which a group of specialists were brought together to discuss the agency’s progress in the identification of emerging risks in the food supply chain.

The meeting was attended by over 100 experts from 29 countries and aimed to gather information from experts, risk assessors, risk managers and other stakeholders on their views on emerging risks.

The authority said the colloquium had provided “valuable input” for the future development of its work on emerging risks and that this would be developed in the future with the collaboration of risk assessors and managers.

“Participants insisted that access to a broad spectrum of experts would be a critical success factor for the authority’s future work in this area,” the authority added.

“The successful identification of risks at their early inception (emerging risks) is at the heart of public health and environmental protection,” continued EFSA.

“Participants recognised the work that has been achieved to date and indicated that the on-going methodological developments are on the right track,” added the agency.

Experts interested in the field of emerging risk identification are encouraged to submit their applications to EFSA’s expert database.

EFSA is looking for expertise in all fields of biological and chemical risks that may affect the food supply chain. On more information about how to become an EFSA expert visit the authority’s website.