Drivers of emerging risks and their interactions in the domain of biological risks to animal, plant and public health: a pilot study

Question Number
EFSA-Q-2014-00077
Issued
22 April 2014
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Abstract

This technical report describes the outcomes of a pilot study for the identification of drivers of emerging risks and their interactions in the domain of biological risks to animal, plant and public health. Steps were taken towards a structured approach for identification of drivers of emerging biological risks and their interactions. The pilot study was based on three steps. Step 1 involved a consultation of the Animal health and welfare (AHAW) and Biological hazards (BIOHAZ) Panels through an adapted Delphi approach with the overall objective of identifying drivers and emerging issues. Step 2 involved a workshop using General Morphological Analysis (GMA) to structure the complex domain of drivers of emerging risk and their interaction. Step 3 involved discussion of the results of step 1 and 2 with the EFSA AHAW, BIOHAZ and Plant health (PLH) Panels and the EFSA Scientific Committee by discussion of the outcomes in their plenary meetings and by written consultation. The outcomes of this pilot study provide conclusions on the applicability of the approach proposed as a tool to achieve a proactive assessment of emerging risks in the domain of biological risks to animal, plant and public health. The technical report also provides recommendations on steps to be taken to further develop the approach outlined in this report and to continue to explore further tools to identify emerging biological risk.

Summary

In order to improve the ability of competent Authorities to control risks associated with new or developing hazardous agents, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is required by Regulation (EC) 178/2002 (art. 34), to establish “monitoring procedures for systematically searching for, collecting, collating and analyzing information and data with a view to the identification of emerging risks in the fields within its mission” (i.e. human, animal and plant health as related to the food and feed chain). Following the activity undertaken by EFSA since its inception in 2003 to develop a methodological approach to identify emerging risks, a Standing WG on Emerging Risks was established in 2013 to support EFSA in the identification of Emerging Risks.

The identification and prioritization of emerging risks is a complex process involving the gathering and evaluation of large amounts of information from different sources. The EFSA definition of emerging risks can be made more applicable to emerging biological risks by considering any risk as new if it has not yet been observed in the EU territory and may require attention by EU risk managers, and by further differentiating the category of new exposures to include species jumps/host shift and geographic jumps.

This report describes the outcomes of a pilot study for the identification of drivers of emerging risks and their interactions in the domain of biological risks to animal, plant and public health. Steps were taken towards a structured approach for identification of drivers of emerging biological risks and their interactions. The results described in this report are to be considered as preliminary, more steps are needed before consolidated results are available.

Step 1 involved a consultation of the Animal health and welfare (AHAW) and Biological hazards (BIOHAZ) Panels through an adapted Delphi approach. The overall objective of the Delphi process was to identify drivers and emerging issues. It was found that the identified drivers are highly connected, but may show effects on different timescales. Several identified drivers are in areas outside EFSA’s existing expertise.

Step 2 involved a workshop using General Morphological Analysis (GMA) to structure the complex domai of drivers of emerging risk and their interaction. A prototype GMA model was developed, which needs to be further developed in order to be a practical working tool to identify and prioritize drivers of emerging risks. The GMA was found to be a promising tool for evaluating the complex interaction between drivers. The prototype GMA model needs further refinement in order to consider whether one generic model could be applicable or whether several specific models should be used.

Step 3 involved discussion of the results of steps 1 and 2 with the EFSA AHAW, BIOHAZ and Plant health (PLH) Panels and the EFSA Scientific Committee by discussion of a draft of this report in their plenary meetings and by written consultation. It was recommended that EFSA should further develop the GMA approach outlined in this report as a tool to achieve a proactive assessment of emerging biological risks and to consider broadening the approach to all of EFSA’s remit. Next steps should include expertise on food systems, trade, economics, social sciences, etc., in the identification of drivers and their inclusion in the GMA approach. Furthermore, EFSA should continue to explore other tools to identify emerging biological risk (horizon scanning, scenario building techniques, etc.).

Published
24 April 2014