Updated EFSA food classification to support data collection and aid data providers

EFSA has improved its harmonised food classification and description system (called ‘FoodEx2’) to further help national data collection agencies and other scientific bodies provide comparable scientific data for use in risk assessments. The advanced features of FoodEx2 have led the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to adopt EFSA’s system as the basis for a global system.

The FoodEx2 system classifies and describes food, drink and food commodities in data collections across different food safety areas. The system allows harmonised Europe-wide reporting of data on food consumption and occurrence of chemical hazards (e.g. contaminants, pesticides) in food. These data are fundamental to EFSA’s work as they are used to assess consumer exposure to food-related risks in the European Union.

FoodEx2 is now the standard for the collection and transmission of data from the EU Member States to EFSA. FAO and WHO have recently decided to work together with EFSA to use the FoodEX2 as a basis for “a food categorisation system applicable at global level”. This development is part of the framework for a pilot Global Individual Food consumption data Tool (FAO/WHO GIFT) that will facilitate access to data on food availability and produce food-based indicators comparable across the globe.

This update builds on feedback from use of FoodEx2 since its introduction in 2011. The coverage of the food safety areas within EFSA’s remit in the classification has been considerably extended, with important updates in the domain of biological agents (e.g. disease, viruses) in food and animals, and the addition of hierarchies for veterinary drug residues, feed and botanicals. The terminology was also significantly expanded in the sections on raw commodities and natural sources. Several technical enhancements such as simplified codes and hierarchies of foods will aid reporting by data providers.

Besides these important updates, EFSA has also produced a guide for data providers that presents the rules for standardised coding and provides tips for the easier use of FoodEx2. The improvement of support tools will be considered in future activities regarding FoodEx2.

This update Revision 2 of FoodEx2 replaces ‘Revision 1’ and comes into immediate effect.