New schemes supporting food safety and consumers in Europe: a voice from the FoodSafety4EU platform
On Friday 25, FoodSafety4EU organized a workshop during the 6th ISEKI-Food Conference. An interactive discussion was guided by Rory Harrington (EFSA), Filipa Melo Vasconcelos (ASAE) Rebeca Fernandez (FoodDrinkEurope), Giulia Tarsitano (EuroCoop) and Beate Kettlitz (FS4EU advisory boardmember). The five experts shared their perspectives regarding the new regulation on the transparency and sustainability of the EU risk assessment in the food chain and how this regulation is a game-changer in the food safety system. In addition to their statements – presented here in a nice and graphical format – here are the highlights of the discussions.
Expected impacts of the implementation of the new Transparency Regulation
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) priorities have been considerably modified since the adoption of this regulation:
EFSA received a mandate from the European Commission to provide some building blocks for the General Plan for Risk Communication for the European Commission.
in parallel, EFSA is working with Member States to build a coordinated risk communication throughout Europe to spread information in a coherent way.
The paradigm of how data is generated, collected, and shared is drastically changing with digitalization. This regulation will promote open data and innovations in data collection, management, and sharing (big Data, blockchain etc.).
The General Plan for Risk Communication could greatly help public authorities fulfilling their duties and enable all stakeholders in the food safety system to understand what their responsibility in the risk analysis process is.
However, for companies this may imply that more resources are required to comply with the regulation. Hence, efficient tools, platforms, and partnerships are necessary to decrease the costs and identify synergies.
A balance between transparency, confidentiality, and innovation
To protect innovation, there is a need to make sure the data made available is not a hindrance to competitivity. Data must be shared transparently to build trust between partners, but intellectual property should be protected to make sure Europe remains a centre for innovation.
This regulation should not be set in stone but should be seen as an evolving organism. Panelists suggested monitoring the positive and negative impacts of its implementation to help in refining the regulation over time and make sure the balance between transparency, confidentiality, and innovation is achieved.
Public understanding of risk analysis
Risk analysis is a complex topic with several components. The public must not be overwhelmed with information on risk assessment and risk management but should receive clear and simple message to understand why some decisions are taken.
As such, availability of open data is needed but, more importantly, there is a need to send targeted messages to consumers groups. Those messages should be simple but accurate and consider the potential knowledge gaps of consumers.
The risk communicators must understand risk perception in consumers and build the messages accordingly. Consequently, social sciences must be involved and some form of dialogue between the risk communicators and the public should be established.
Finally, some technical terms used in risk analysis and risk communication are not well understood or even confusing for consumers (e.g. relative versus absolute risk, hazard versus risk). It is critical that consumers understand those basic terms to make the risk communication more efficient.
The digital transformation: a drive for the General Plan for Risk Communication?
Nowadays, most citizens and netizens have access to information at their fingertips. The real challenge is not to develop tools but how to harness existing technology in the best way possible.
The panelists highlighted the great potential of the new born FoodSafety4EU community platform, platform that is strongly committed to boost partnerships and identify synergiesamong actors of the food safety system. The interactive workshop was also a step forward to a multistakeholder dialogue to evaluate expectations and potential impacts of the new regulatory framework on the European Food Safety system of the future.
Siméon Bourdoux, ILSI Europe
Did you miss the event? Watch it on YouTube!
FoodSafety4EU @EUROMALT annual convention
EUROMALT, the trade association representing the malting industry in Europe, is a Supporting Partner of the FoodSafety4EU Project.
On June the 8th, Foodsafety4EU was hosted at the Annual Convention of the Euromalt members, which are national malting associations from several EU members states (Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and Sweden).
EUROMALT members gather twice a year (in June for the annual convention, and inNovember for the Annual General Meeting) to share insights on the malting industry and hear the opinion and updates from external speakers coming from sectors close or similar to the malting industry.
During the event, the FoodSafety4EU Coordination team presented the project strategy and ongoing activities, with the aim of activating a dialogue to know EUROMALT members’ needs and explore pathways for their involvement in the future #FS4EU platform.
To the question “What FoodSafety4EU can do for EUROMALT members?” the audience replied highlighting the following issues:
– Access, through the platform, tobest practices for risk assessment, communication, and management, that will be co-created and piloted in Food Safety Operational Labs, also with supporting partners input.
– Made available summaries of EFSA opinions, helping to translate scientific evidence into key messages for business operations.
– Facilitate the dialogue and data sharing between business operators and EFSA. EUROMALT members have good data set of contaminants (mycotoxins and heavy metals) occurrence in malting barley and malt that might be made available to EFSA. However, some training on data handling and data management principles is needed.
– Listen to each other and share priorities with respect emerging risks (a topic that will be deeply elaborated in Food Safety Operational Labs).
– It was asked if and how the extra – EU issues will be taken into account in the project: that these issues will be undertaken through the FS4EU international network that includes some non-EU Member States, Associated countries and links with global networks.
– EUROMALT members expressed their interest in discussing international trade aspects. Even though the primary focus of FoodSafety4EU is on the EU scenario, the impact of the EU Food Safety System dynamics on international trade will be included in the debate.
Finally, EUROMALT confirmed its interest in providing their input and highlight on malting industry trends/needs to be circulated via the FS4EU channels and platform.
On May 6 and 7, researchers from academia and industry, and regulators gathered to establish a coordinated approach to assess the human health risks of micro- and nanoplastics in food during EFSA 25th Scientific Colloquium. Here are the highlights of the discussions.
What are micro- andnanoplastics?
Microplastics are small particles of plastic polymer materials smaller than 5 mm in size. Nanoplastics are even smaller, ranging from 1 to 100 nanometres – as little as a thousandth part of a hair’s breadth. Those particles are ubiquitous in the environment and are commonly found in food (e.g. in mussels) and drinking water.
How to detect and quantify micro- and nanoplastics?
Particles with a size bigger than 1 mm can be visually detected and quantified. However, for smaller particles an array of other analytical techniques is necessary, from traditional microscopy to more advanced techniques. Currently, existing analytical methods are only capable of detecting relatively large particles, but the bigger hurdle to completely identifying them is the often lack of capability to characterize their chemical composition.
Experts participating in the colloquium agreed that the future research should focus on few key aspects which would allow for proper identification and quantification of those particles:
Developing unified nomenclature,
Protocols of sample preparation and analysis.
Issuing guidelines for conducting safety studies and
Maintenance and standardisation of reference materials to allow comparability between future studies.
These would help in the exposure assessment and hazard characterization, and eventually enable a proper risk assessment.
Developing our understanding of human exposure to micro- and nanoplastics
We are exposed to micro- & nanoplastics almost every day: those particles are part of the air pollution, they are ingested with food and water and are in the environment. Surprisingly, although we are frequently exposed to them, there is a limited amount of reliable data about the number of particles we ingest, their exact sources and their fate in our body. Limited data shows that some particles pass through the digestive system possibly without affecting us at all, while other studies suggest that certain particles can enter the blood stream and thus the organs and tissues with little understood effects.
In a set of dedicated discussions during the colloquium, participants indicated that it is critical to generate new reliable data on exposure through the whole diet, sources (including food packaging), and identify which commodities are most likely to be contributing with the highest amounts of micro- and nanoplastics exposure.
Micro- and nanoplastics: a hazard?
In 2016, EFSA published a statement on microplastics and recommended to gain knowledge on the possible toxicity of plastics particles. Since then, there have been a few contradictory studies about the hazardous nature of those particles. In fact, participants to the workshop agreed that there is simply not enough evidence available to characterize the hazard of micro- and nanoplastics, and by extension to assess the risk to human health.
A clear message was shared throughout the event: there is not enough evidence to evaluate the risk for human health. To make sure risk assessment can take place, multidisciplinary coordinated actions are necessary. In addition, given the global nature of the issue, collaborations between organisations and individual researchers outside of the European ecosystem are essential. After all, plastics particles are not only a concern for their potential threat to human health but also because of the risk they pose to the environment and its biodiversity.
Siméon Bourdoux, Scientific Project Manager @ILSI Europe
Nevena Hristozova, Scientific Project Manager @ILSI Europe
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