Event report on the EFSA Session organised under the International Association for Food Protection (IAFP) 2017 European Symposium on food safety


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The successful identification of risks at their early inception is at the heart of public health protection and is becoming increasingly important in food safety management. Early recognition of emerging risks has the potential to become a significant preventive instrument at the disposal of the food safety community. This symposium aimed at providing an overview of some of the current approaches to identification of emerging risks being developed and applied by International and European institutions, industry and academic researchers. Three presentations were followed by a panel discussion addressing the strengths and weaknesses of such approaches, the challenges in identification of emerging issues and importance of collaboration in optimising such approaches. At the regional and international level, approaches to the identification of emerging issues to date have focussed mainly on the exploitation of knowledge networks and individual and institutional expertise. The session looked at how different organisations (EFSA, FAO, WHO) have approached this and used the resulting information to guide their work. Industry recognizes the importance of being forewarned of potential risks and presented at this event some of the tools which are being used in the food industry including web scouting tools, based on text mining principles, to identify emerging risks with the support of a network of experts. It also looked at how industry is exploring the opportunity to extract additional information from raw data generated for other purposes (e.g. analytical data), trend analysis and vulnerability maps. Other more systematic approaches are being developed by research and academic institutions. To illustrate this, the session included a presentation on an approach to assess chemicals currently registered under the REACH legislation for the identification of potential emerging chemical risks in the food and feed chain evaluating parameters related to exposure (tonnage, release, biodegradation and potential accumulation) and toxicity. Despite the fact that new approaches and tools for the identification of emerging risks have shown to assist in early management of potential emerging issues, gaps remain in global coverage and in consistency of use of such tools. Common approaches should be developed by institutions, industry and academy to apply holistic and multi-disciplinary approaches to collect and analyse intelligence for early identification of emerging and therefore, to reduce the gaps encountered in coverage and in consistency of the use of the new tools for the identification of emerging risks as well as engaging expert with the necessary expertise for the final decision to determine what can or cannot constitute a real emerging risk in food and feed safety

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First published in EFSA Supporting Publications
20 July 2017