Food crises do not stop at borders, whether they be those of a country or of the European Union (EU). This is why EFSA works closely with EU neighbour countries to address key issues such as crisis preparedness and cooperation. A workshop on the theme “Cooperation in times of food and feed crises” provided a forum to exchange experiences and best practices on risk assessment and risk communication during a food and feed crisis.
The 21 participants at the workshop – held in Parma on 24 November 2015 – represented the national food authorities of 13 Eastern European and Mediterranean countries. EFSA staff and a European Commission representative shared information with them about procedures to follow when urgent scientific advice is needed. Experiences from past food crises prepared participants to deal with realistic scenarios in practical group work.
How should we communicate during a crisis? EFSA addressed this question during the second part of the workshop, when participants discussed the basic principles of communicating in a crisis. Participants worked with crisis communication guidelines presented by EFSA, again using real case studies developed in cooperation with the participating national food authorities.
This combination of theoretical information and practical group work maximised impact and usefulness, participants said. They valued the opportunity to gain insights into how EFSA carries out its scientific risk assessment, in particular during crises, and recommended that such workshops should be held annually. Sharing experiences with EFSA and among themselves would help them to prepare for potential future outbreaks.
Globalisation needs strategic cooperation
“In the age of globalisation, we cannot close our eyes before the fact that food is being exchanged across borders and can contribute to the distribution of disease and contamination,” said Dr Elie Bou Yazbeck, a food science expert from the Ministry of Economy and Trade in Lebanon. “It’s more important than ever that we cooperate strategically and operationally so that we are able to deal with a potential food crisis fast and effectively.”
The workshop was organised within the EFSA European Neighbourhood Programme 2014-2016 (ENP) for countries financed by the European Commission under the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI).