New grants for molecular approaches for foodborne pathogens and read across methods for chemical hazards

Scientific research organisations in Member States can now apply for a new funding stream in two crucial areas for EFSA’s current and future risk assessment work: microbiological and chemical hazard assessment. This call is the first of several new funding opportunities EFSA is providing to boost scientific cooperation between scientists and research organisations across Europe.

The call is open to eligible scientific organisations (so-called ‘Article 36 organisations’ nominated by Member States) for research proposals in the following two areas:

1) Molecular approaches for identifying and characterising microbial foodborne pathogens, specifically using whole genome sequence (WGS) analysis

The application of WGS to generate new data could help risk assessors to better understand bacterial genetic diversity, to assess epidemiological relationships and to identify markers about the potential to cause disease in humans. However, there is currently limited experience in the use of WGS methods for microbial food safety in the EU.

Projects that coordinate efforts in the food, veterinary and human health sectors will help to maximise benefits from the use of WGS for food safety and public health protection. Novel means of analysing data and translating these into ‘plain language’ reports that can be used for public health action are also needed.

2) Developing and applying read across methodologies to the hazard assessment of chemicals in the food safety area.

Modern methods for identifying and characterising chemical hazards are re-shaping the “toxicology paradigm” from an empirical testing approach to a mechanistic one. Predictive tools and new risk assessment frameworks are being developed that bring a systems toxicology perspective using Integrated Testing Strategies (ITS). ITS are driving the development of new tools and alternative testing methods focus on depicting chemical Mode of Action/Adverse Outcome Pathway.

Projects should explore the use of physico-chemical properties (e.g. quantitative structure activity relationships), historical toxicological data from in vivo and in vitro studies using mammalian and alternative test species (e.g. fish) in read-across methodologies. They should include case studies of relevance for food and feed safety (e.g. pesticides, contaminants, food and feed additives, flavourings, food contact materials) using weight of evidence approaches.