New schemes supporting food safety and consumers in Europe: a voice from the FoodSafety4EU platform
Date : 2021-07-05
Author : FS4EU Team

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

  • 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.

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

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