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!

FSOLab4 – 1st workshop: co-creating novel and innovative communication methods informing civil society about food safety research and the risk assessment process

From 14-15 September 2021, the first of three workshops within the Food Safety Operational Lab 4 (FSOLab 4) took place, involving 21 participants from 11 countries representing food safety authorities, industry/companies, research, civil society, and communication services. 

FSOLab 4 is managed by Dr. Line Friis Lindner and the lab is facilitated by Dr. Katherine Flynn, both from ISEKI-Food Association.

The goal of FSOLab 4 is to engage actors from the food safety system in developing, implementing and evaluating innovative and novel communication methods informing civil society about food safety research and the risk assessment process. 

Risk communication to civil society is important because foodborne incidents impact public health causing financial losses at the macro-, meso- and micro-level of society. Thus, effective risk communication – exchange of information between experts and civil society using appropriate communication techniques, formats and media – must enable people at risk to make informed decisions to protect themselves and the people near them. While most food safety communication methods are targeted at specific hazards, there are fewer examples informing civil society about the science-based risk assessment process. In FSOLab4, through stakeholder involvement and participatory workshops, lab participants will co-create food safety communication methods that will be implemented in practice. 

As the other FSOLabs, FSOLab 4 is also built on the concept of the “Social lab” method involving social actors and addressing social challenges designed to bring together particular people and strengthen relationships to push forward innovative ideas. As such, social labs tackle social challenges in different fields, and they require the active engagement of all actors included and affected. And finally, social labs take as their point of departure real social challenges, the involved actors find solutions to these challenges and test the solutions in real-life environments eventually contributing to more sustainable embedding and uptake of the developed pilot ideas. 

The first FSOLab4 workshop – 14-15 September 2021 – took place online and while many of the 21 lab participants had not met before, much of the time was dedicated to exchanging observations and viewpoints, engaging in dialogues and offering reflections (also in smaller groups). To foster a creative work process, we used (as the other FSOLabs) MIRO, which is an online collaborative whiteboard platform that works very well for teams to together visualize ideas and plan workflows. The level of engagement, commitment and interest in the topic and in the social lab process was very high from the beginning to the end. At the end of day 2, lab participants came to an agreement on 1 pilot idea and identified 3 pilot actions corresponding to three stakeholder groups.

Below, the goals of each of the sub-groups:

1 Pilot action – Sub-group Food Safety Authorities: 

2 Pilot action – Sub-group Industry:

3 Pilot action – Sub-group Consumers:

Within each sub-group, a leader and co-leader were nominated as responsible for organizing the groups and for revising, re-visiting and adapting the 3 pilot actions to be presented to the FS4EU Advisory Board in October 2021. Based on the feedback from the Advisory Board, FSOLab 4 will, at the second workshop (8-9 November 2021), collectively evaluate the feedback and based on a common agreement in the lab, lab participants will then select at least one of the pilot actions to be tested in practice

Thus, the work within FSOLab 4 remains exciting and we are all very much looking forward to taking part in the process of developing and implementing innovative and novel communication methods informing civil society about food safety research and the risk assessment process. 

Line Friis Lindner, FSOLab4 Manager

ISEKI-Food Association

Continuing our work in FSOLabs: The FSOLab on Food Safety Strategic and Innovation Agenda

On September 2021, the Food Safety Operational Lab 3 (FSOLab 3) kicked off with 22 participants from 14 countries across different business sectors (e.g., research, industry, academia, European Initiatives, Food Safety Authorities etc.). 

FSOLab 3 is managed by Dr. Denisa E. Duță, Dr. Nastasia Belc and Dr. Gabriel Mustățea, from The National R&D Institute for Food Bioresources (IBA, Romania), supported by Dr. Biancamaria Ciasca from National Research Council of Italy – Institute of Sciences of Food Production (CNR, Italy) as Lab Facilitator. 

FSOLab 3 aims to develop Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda (SRIA) in Food Safety addressing the fragmentation of the Food Safety Stakeholders, policy priorities and emerging technologies. 

The 1st workshop was conducted on two challenging days and introduced the participants in the Social Lab process in order to form a collaborative team which was able to analyze the existing Research and Innovation Strategies, Research Programmes, Implementation Plans (provided draft) related to food safety areas, to identify gaps, to improve the approaching of food safety in a systematic way and to obtain a comprehensive diagnosis as a basis for discussions. At the end of the workshop, participants were able to identify some pilot ideas in the Food Safety sector for implementation for achieving a coherent SRIA.

The Analysis of existing Research Agendas related to Food Safety issues (Relevant EU Policies; EU General Food Law and related risk-based food safety regulatory frameworks; The EU Green Deal; Farm to Fork strategy; Biodiversity strategy; Strategy for sustainable Chemicals; Common agricultural policy (CAP); EU consumer policy; EU environment policy; EU global food security) revealed that the Key drivers with impact in Food Safety are: climate change, changes in food and farming systems; Rapid technological advancements and emerging technologies; Integration and improving risk assessment methodologies; Assessment of new technologies; The current COVID-19 pandemic.

After the evaluation of the most relevant challenges in food safety domainassociated R&D directions were proposed by participants to minimize/solve the challenges which were further clustered into seven core themes: Effective communication and public awareness; Novel hazards and risks; Sustainable and food safety system transformation; Food authenticity and traceability; Safe choices in consumption pattern; New technologies impact; Digital transformation. “Novel hazards and risks” was voted as the core theme with the highest importance and lowest uncertainty among the other ones, to be taken into consideration for defining a pilot implemented during the project lifetime.

Suggested Pilot Actions for FSOLab3 for core theme: Novel hazards and risks.

The pilot actions were drafted in terms of: time structure; target groups; information and research required; responsibilities and roles; milestones and next steps

Pilot idea 1 – Alliance on Food systems: emerging risks and hazards

Goals:
– To bring together all the food safety actors for building a common strategy to address emerging risks and hazards
– To have an overall picture of the actors and repository of research/actions/initiatives
– European Food Safety Partnership as a tool for collaboration
– Pilot approach for building a part of the EFS Forum

Pilot idea 2 – Fast-response RIA for emerging hazards

Goals:
– Strategy for a Research Innovation Agenda
Target groups (involved in drafting the SRIA through consultation and STEEPV analysis): national authorities (e.g. FSA), policy makers and risk managers (e.g DG Sante, EFSA), research, industry, consumers, society, professional associations, ad hoc young people structured group) to guarantee a systemic approach and cross-sectorial approach

Next step: the drafted pilot ideas will be further analyzed and discussed in the 2nd FSOlab 3 workshop (Autumn 2021) to establish a priority list of topics for future research to address global challenges (SDGs, RRI).

All in all, the first FSOLab 3 wokshop was very demanding but promising in contributing to build a SRIA which will reinforce the role of Europe as global leader in food safety standards.

Denisa E. Duță, FSOLab manager, FoodSafety4EU

 National R&D Institute for Food Bioresources-IBA Bucharest, Romania

The FSOLab on the alignment of national and transnational research programs was successfully launched!

On July 2021, the Food Safety Operational Lab 2 (FSOLab 2) kicked off, involving 23 participants from 12 nations across different business sectors (e.g., research, industry/companies, academia, Food Safety Authorities, Consumer advocates, Action Networks, Technology & Communication Services) and covering a wide range of expertise.

The FSOLab 2 is under the management of Prof. Dr. Michael Rychlik & Dr. Tamara Stelzl, both from Technical University of Munich (TUM, Germany), supported by Dr. Claudia Iasillo from the Agency for Promotion of European Research (APRE, Italy) as Lab Moderator/Facilitator.

Starting with a 2-hours orientation session, FSOLab 2 participants were given an in-depth introduction to the topic of FSOLab 2, which revolves around research programs and funding opportunities in the EU Member States and Associated Countries. FSOLab 2 strives to better align national and transnational research programs by ensuring broad and balanced access to Food Safety funding across the EU Member States while identifying and addressing related challenges and gaps.

Why is the topic of FSOLab 2 of importance?

It is well known that there exist large differences and inequalities in the distribution of economic resources and research funds among individual countries, both within and outside the European Union. This can have major implications for a country’s performance in a particular discipline such as Food Safety. As well, it can have far-reaching effects on other countries and societies within Europe, potentially hindering scientific progress and innovation. Inadequate financial support for R&D activities is also recognized to weaken the overall quality and competitiveness of national research and to have a long-term negative impact on a country’s economy. Against this background, it is important to address existing problems related to research funding in order to move Europe forward, particularly in the area of Food Safety, and to strengthen public confidence and public health on a sustained level.

Like each of the four FSOLabs conducted within the framework of the FS4EU project, FSOLab 2 applies a “Social Lab” approach and targets a specific Food Safety issue, as described above. In general, Social Labs are aimed at addressing complex societal challenges with the involvement of various experts and stakeholders. FSOLabs provide space for practical experimentationin a real-world setting without following standardized planning guidelines and without knowing exactly how to proceed.Social Labs can be understood as a continuous process and a living system that habitually operate in learning cycles. In other words, based on the data collected during the execution of an experiment, called a “pilot action”, pilot ideas are tested, refined, and constantly progressed, to be tested over and over again.

On July 27th and 28th, 2021, the time had come to start the adventure of FSOLab 2 with great enthusiasm and also some curiosity. As a part of a two-day interactive workshop, the central theme of FSOLab 2 has been brought to life, by developing and drawing up concrete plans for possible pilot actions within the team of 23 FSOLab 2 participants. Everybody was very respectful of one another and highly committed. Opinions have been exchanged, viewpoints discussed, detailed pilot plans drafted “until heads were smoking”. Finally, a clear vision for piloting came into view. Under the umbrella theme Alignment of European Food Safety Research by simplification of funding processes”, the following three pilot actions have been identified and more precisely elaborated:

Pilot Action No. 1:

Development of an approach for matching the needs of different/two specific actors such as researchers & industry/funders (in a country or region) for selected Food Safety funding call topics.

Pilot Action No. 2:

Development of a set of recommendations (e.g., policy paper) based on a best practice analysis for more effective Food Safety research funding. As a baseline, countries with a “less mature” Food Safety funding system shall be compared to “more” developed countries allowing beneficial practices to be communicated and transferred from one country (or region) to another.

Pilot Action No. 3:

Drafting a hybrid public/private funding program, with the intention of setting up a new & innovative Food Safety funding program (e.g. crowdfunding) with multi-stakeholder interaction in selected countries.

As a next step, the proposed FSOLab 2 pilot actions undergo a peer review by external evaluators and experts and based on their feedback, one particular of the three pilot actions will be selected. In addition to the experts’ judgment, several other criteria such as feasibility, time and costs, etc., will be weighted into the final decision.

Even though FSOLab 2 is still at the very beginning of its pilot, the first workshop has brought us a bit closer to the overall FSOLab goal, leaving us eager to see where the journey will take us!

Tamara Stelzl, Technical University of Munich (TUM)

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