Joint EFSA/BfR 2019 simulation exercise/workshop to strengthen regional networks for crisis preparedness and communication in times of crisis (Berlin, 28‐30 August 2019)
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In August 2019 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) co‐facilitated a simulation exercise/workshop on crisis preparedness and communication for multiple Member States (MSs). The overall aim of the event was to strengthen regional networks in Western Europe for crisis preparedness and communication in times of crisis. Content for the 2.5‐day workshop, including the scenario for the simulation exercise, was created collaboratively by EFSA, BfR, the German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) and Instinctif Partners. BfR hosted the workshop at its Marienfelde campus in Berlin. 40 participants attended from five MSs: Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and The Netherlands, as well as representatives from the European Commission (EC) and EFSA. The first day of the workshop comprised a series of presentations outlining the crisis response approaches adopted by participating MSs, EU‐level communications tools and insights, with special focus on the 2017 fipronil egg contamination, and an introduction to the simulation exercise taking place the following day. The second day was entirely given over to a role‐played simulation exercise designed to enable participants to rehearse actions, share insights and further enhance capability in the use of available tools, decision‐making, collaboration and risk communication. The fictional scenario for the simulation exercise was high levels of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA) in camomile tea specifically marketed towards three vulnerable population groups. Day three comprised facilitated feedback sessions on the simulation exercise, and a choice of four subject‐specific training sessions for participants to attend. The objectives of the workshop were achieved, as evidenced by the recorded outcomes and evaluation feedback from participants. In addition, discussions during the workshop generated practical recommendations for enhancing effective, multidisciplinary and multi‐country collaboration during times of urgent response.