NETMAP ANALYSES: Mapping National Food Safety Systems

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A powerful methodology applied for the first time ever to national Food Safety Systems

Thanks to the innovative methodological work and digital adaptation by Wageningen University, as part of the FoodSafety4EU platform, the Net Map Analysis methodology has been applied in December 2021, for the first time ever, to the Italian national Food Safety System (FSS)!

The overall aims of this Net Mapping were to:

Here is a short video to better understand the methodology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OAsqMTBJjw

Here, with Italian voiceover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=peqY395y_TU

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South Hub NetMap : 10 high-level Italian experts reflecting together on their national Food Safety System

On Thursday 9th of December 2021, 10 Italian experts representing national risk assessment, risk management and risk communication areas put their heads together at work through this novel methodology. We would like to thank them:

For more than 5 hours online, facilitated by CNR – ISPA, FS4EU coordinator, they dedicated their mind and enthusiasm to this delicate task of mapping the Italian FSS, which they all actively take part in, and identifying its potential needs for improvement in the food risk analysis process.

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One of the co-constructed network mapping of the Italian Food Safety System

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West Hub NetMap : 9 high-level Belgian experts in risk analysis related to circular economy and recycled food packaging materials

On Friday 14th of January 2022, from 9:00 to 12:45, 9 Belgian FSS experts got down to map their fellow national stakeholders involved in risk analysis related to recycled food packaging materials in a circular economy, more specifically paper and cardboard packaging. We would like to thank again the 9 involved experts:

Special thanks to Prof. dr. Sarah De Saeger, Dr. Celine Meerpoel (Notekeeper and research assistant) and Niels van der Linden (technical support) for creating the adequate conditions for the West Hub NetMap and its expert participants, who proved very active and even requested a follow-up meeting.

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One of the co-constructed network mapping of the Belgian Food Safety System

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In total, 4 FS4EU Hubs to undergo this exercise

In the FoodSafety4EU Platform, partners and stakeholders coming from all over Europe (and more) are divided into 4 geographical Hubs. Therefore, this NetMap Analysis methodology will be collectively applied another 2 times in early 2022:

In the end, when all the data from this Netmapping session will be crunched and processed, each Hub’s representative country is expected to have a clearer, more complete picture of their national FSS, both quantifying and qualifying the role and influence of every stakeholder.

Knowing how different actors interact within a system, can facilitate the understanding of some connections at National level among the players, who sometimes could be not completely integrated, due to different strict institutional roles and functions. This could not generate a smooth room for a structured dialogue.

It’s being discussed how to valorize this kind of exercise and how to design a model to be experimented, and hopefully adopted, if proving relevant, by the main institutions in the Food Safety Systems of the EU Member States and affiliated countries.

Presenting this approach and the Hub cases to policy makers will help them, as well as all the other actors of their national FSS, to be more efficient, as they will be able to rationally prioritize both relevant calls to action and specific channels of communication between actors.

As we improve continuously, there is no doubt that those next NetMap Analysis will prove ever more fruitful, so stay tuned for those events!

1st FS4EU Pre-Forum: top level pitches and passionate speakers for a delighted audience

A large, diverse audience

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Yesterday, on the morning of Thursday December 15th, an audience of more than 120 scientists gathered online to follow the 1st Pre-Forum held by FoodSafety4EU.

Food safety enthusiasts attended from all over the world: Albania, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Scotland, Switzerland, and Tunisia. For the record, half of them were attending from work, half from home #CovidLife.

All sectors of the Food Safety System were represented:

And most of them had been working on agro/food-related topics for more than 10 years:

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Highly engaging scientific and society pitches from top-quality speakers

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The whole event was live-streamed, so you can listen to those pitches directly on this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvKtxTyYscY

  1. 08:31–23:00 Dr. Stef Bronzwaer, Research Coordinator, ED Office, EFSA[v1] , presented the modern context of food sustainability and the current objectives of the One Health paradigm in today’s EU Food Safety System.
  2. 24:25-40:05 Dr. Sandra Coecke, Horizontal Team Leader F2F Methods and Models for One Health, European Commission JRC, presented the next generation of food safety testing models and methods, considering the sustainability needs of European food production.
  3. 42:35-46:30 Dr Maurizio Notarfonso, SPES GEIE / Federalimentare, presented the Seafood Tomorrow project, aiming at ensuring the safety of European seafood by improving testing methods and supporting innovative technologies.
  4. 47:12-51:08 Dr Solveig Langsrud, Norwegian Food Research Institute Nofima, presented the SafeConsume project, a H2020 Research and Innovation Action aiming to mitigate risk of food borne infection at the consumer part of the chain, considering Education of young people, Tools and products, Improved food safety policy and Communication with consumers.
  5. 53:06-56:40 Dr Giuseppe Meca, Researcher and Professor, Universitat de Valencia, presented the BiOrangePack project, aiming to increase the efficiency, sustainability and competitiveness of the post-farming processing chain of organic citrus fruit, by intervening in points of weakness and the unresolved problems of this supply chain.
  6. 57:36-01:02:36 Dr Karl Presser, Premotec GmbH, presented the Expert Finder App, a new digital tool of the FoodSafety4EU platform, aiming at creating a database of scientific, society and industry experts of Food Safety, in order to facilitate exchanges of information, knowledge and networking on particular food safety related issues whenever needed.
  7. 01:03:42-01:07:10 Dr Marco Ricci, Politecnico di Torino, presented a research project on microwave sensing for food contamination monitoring, especially focusing on physical hazards that can only hardly be detected in foods currently.
  8. 01:07:47-01:11:30 Dr Michele Suman, Food Safety & Authenticity Research Manager, Barilla SpA, presented the Barilla Sustainable Farming strategy, beyond farm gate and value chain actions, leading to a “Handbook for the Sustainable Cultivation of Quality Durum Wheat”, a new “sustainability tool” tailored on a decision support system called granoduro.net® and the design and use of a set of rules on durum wheat cultivation contracts.

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A fruitful and enlightening interactive session

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Thanks to the cheerful animating skills of Dr Filipa Melo de Vasconcelos (ASAE) and Dr Erin Vera (ILSI Europe), the conference became a participatory session of learnings and discussion, the audience asking questions to the speakers, expressing opinions and sharing ideas via real-time polls and requests (Mentimeter).

Here are some of the important learnings that we can take home concerning this high-quality audience scientific, political, personal opinions, hopes and appreciations about the current and future European food sustainability issues and food safety system:

How much did the audience agree with those propositions?

Then, a series of targeted questions were asked to the successive speakers of the day, concerning their respective scientific projects, their views of the current EU food safety concerns, or their opinions on recent scientific and society topics. You can find them here, starting at 01:28:58.

Finally, we collected the audience’s interest ranking for several food sustainability related topics:

This insight will definitely guide us in the definition of next year’s 2nd PreForum Conference!

This was a very successful attempt at gathering an expert audience around sustainable food safety, as well as a truly joyful event! We hope you enjoyed it, if you were there, and we expect those that couldn’t attend to stay tuned for our next conference!

In any case, please share your opinions and ideas about this conference and for the future of the EU sustainable food safety, directly on the conference stream video!

Sustainable foods: safe for us, safe for our planet

Beyond issues about our own health, the foods we consume also have an impact on the health of the planet – which in turn, affects human health in the long term; in recent years, specific figures and reports have underlined various worries for living ecosystems: climate change, undamped GHG emissions, marine litter, as well as both local and global biodiversity loss all along our own food chain – from soil organisms to pollinators and marine life.

These phenomena appear as substantially caused by our agricultural and farming practices and, at the end of the day, by current human eating habits and patterns. While our main focus will always be producing safe foods for all humans, we now need to make sure that they prove to be safe for our planet as well.

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Are we living on a free-range planet ?
(Photo credit : Creative commons)

How can we all fight for our planet?

Needless to say, since plant-based diets tend to have a lower planetary impact than animal-based diets, European consumer’s choices are of paramount importance in the current agricultural paradigm shift. Furthermore, going for more plant-based foods financially allows EU citizens to select more certified, eco-consciously-raised animal foods, thus leading to reduce EU farming environmental impacts, as long as those foods are safe to consume, available, affordable and deliver the required nutritional needs for each individual.

However, EU consumers are not the only actors that can contribute to more sustainable diets, and tons of public and private initiatives are already being taken in this direction : from EU fundings of projects to step up European cultivation of pulses, legumes (ex: here or here) and insect-based feeds/foods (here) to food eco-labeling and consumer information schemes (here), as well as technological breakthroughs allowing for more eco-friendly farming practices, such as precision agriculture (robotic automatization, crop imaging), vertical farming, advances in biostimulants and biopesticides for crops, genetic engineering, or even plant-based/cultured meat, etc.

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Examples of current AgTech for tomorrows’ sustainable foods
(Photo credit : IDTechEx Research)

Do you want to further get involved in food sustainability?

Then save the date: Food sustainability is the topic of the Pre-Forum organized online on the 15th of December (register here) by the FoodSafety4EU project, gathering various European stakeholders: private, public, scientific, industrial, consumer organisations, etc.

You are very welcome to join and contribute together to shaping the future collaborative platform for food safety in the EU.

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#FS4EU for sustainable food

This introductory conference will pave the way for the future EU FOOD SAFETY FORUM, a place where you will find some answers to both general and specific questions about how food safety and food sustainability interconnect, and where citizens’ requests will be sped up more efficiently to political level.

Please don’t hesitate to show up and help build the future of our foods: safe for us, safe for our planet.

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 board member). 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

Public understanding of risk analysis

The digital transformation: a drive for the General Plan for Risk Communication?

Conclusion

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 in November 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, to best 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.

Veronica Lattanzio, FS4EU coordinator

Nunzia Cito, FS4EU platform manager

Antonio F. Logrieco, FS4EU Network Coordinator

Gianluca Nurra, EUROMALT Scientific & Technical Advisor

Micro- and nanoplastics: where are we in Europe?

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- and nanoplastics?

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:

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?

Card produced by the FooodSafety4EU project to celebrate the #WorldWaterDay on 22.03.21

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.

Conclusions

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

Want to know more?

Check out EFSA video

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