An emerging risk A risk to human, animal or plant health resulting from a new source or increased susceptibility or exposure to an existing source. is: “a risk resulting from a newly identified hazard A substance or activity which has the potential to cause adverse effects to living organisms or environments. to which a significant exposure Concentration or amount of a particular substance that is taken in by an individual, population or ecosystem in a specific frequency over a certain amount of time. may occur, or from an unexpected new or increased significant exposure and/or susceptibility to a known hazard.”
The successful identification of emerging risks is at the heart of protecting public health and the environment. By identifying emerging risks in the food chain early, EFSA supports risk managers in anticipating risks and taking effective and timely prevention measures to protect consumers, animals, plants and the environment. Identifying emerging risks also helps to im-prove EFSA’s ability to meet future risk assessment A specialised field of applied science that involves reviewing scientific data and studies in order to evaluate risks associated with certain hazards. It involves four steps: hazard identification, hazard characterisation, exposure assessment and risk characterisation. challenges, for example, by mining new sources of data, developing new analytical tools and methods, and broadening networks of sci-entific knowledge.
Ciguatera fish poisoning (CFP) is the most common type of marine biotoxin food poisoning worldwide. It is typically caused by the consumption of fish that have accumulated ciguatoxins (CTX) in their flesh. CTX are produced by benthic microalgae from the genus A recognised way of categorising closely related species of organisms. The genus is the first part of the Latin name of a species; for example, Homo Sapiens (human being) is part of the genus Homo. Gambierdiscus spp. Typical of tropical and subtropical areas, CFP was first recorded in the Spanish and Portuguese Macaronesia islands of the Atlantic Ocean in 2004.
To better understand the risks of CFP in Europe, EFSA and the Spanish Food Safety Authority (AESAN) jointly funded the EuroCigua project between June 2016 and January 2021. The project aimed to determine the spread and main characteristics of ciguatera in Europe; measure biotoxin levels in microalgae and in fish; and develop analytical methods to characterise these toxins. A video of the final project workshop provides a detailed overview:
The Eurocigua project recorded a total of 34 outbreaks and 209 cases in Europe between 2012 and 2019. It found Gambierdiscus and another microalgae genus called Fukuyoa spp not only in the Spanish and Portuguese Atlantic islands but also in several Mediterranean islands including Crete, Cyprus and, for the first time, the Balearics. The project also developed and implemented analytical methods for the identification, quantification and confirmation of CTX.
EuroCigua confirmed that CFP is becoming endemic Consistently present in a population or region, whether dormant or active as measured by clinical tests. in the Macaronesia area. Climate change and globalisation of trade are the main drivers of the spread of CFP, which is intensified by travel to tropical areas. Further data collection, analytical method standardisation and development of predictive modelling are needed to inform adequate risk management The management of risks which have been identified by risk assessment. It includes the planning, implementation and evaluation of any resulting actions taken to protect consumers, animals and the environment. of CFP in Europe.
EFSA publishes reports on identifying emerging risks and drivers using food chain analysis on aquaculture of Atlantic salmon and potential emerging chemical risks in the food chain of substances under REACH 2. See also EFSA's Activities on Emerging Risks in 2019.
EFSA develops the concept for the DEMETER project: an Emerging Risks Knowledge Exchange Platform (ERKEP) Framework. See also EFSA's Activities on Emerging Risks in 2018.
EFSA tests a text mining tool for emerging risk identification, a media monitoring tool MedISys for plant health threats and a procedure for identifying emerging chemical risks in the food chain. See also EFSA's Activities on Emerging Risks in 2016.
EFSA finalises a systematic procedure for the identification of emerging chemical risks in the food/feed chain and identifies drivers and interactions of emerging biological risks. See also: EFSA’s Activities on Emerging Risks in 2014.
July and January
EFSA supports a project on modelling, predicting and mapping the emergence of aflatoxins in cereals in the EU due to climate change. See also EFSA's activities on Emerging Risks 2012-2013.
EFSA developed IT tools for identifying emerging risks through routine analysis of data from the Rapid Alert System on Food and Feed (RASFF) of the European Commission and databases of trade statistics from the EU’s Comtext and the UN’s Comtrade databases.
EFSA developed IT tools to support the development of web monitoring systems for the detection of emerging risks.
EFSA’s Scientific Committee adopts an opinion on the early identification of emerging risks.
Under Article 34 of EFSA’s Founding Regulation 178/2002, the Authority is required to:
- identify, assess and disseminate information on emerging issues and ensure coordination with relevant networks and international organisations
- promote the identification of data sources and data collection and/or data generation in prioritised emerging issues
- evaluate the collected information and identify emerging risks.
The drivers of emerging risks may include population Community of humans, animals or plants from the same species. growth, globalisation, resource and energy scarcity, slowing agricultural productivity, increasing concentration of the supply chain, price volatility, changing diet trends and the emergence of anti-microbial resistant strands to name a few.
Since 2002, EFSA has taken a number of practical steps to assist with the identification of emerging risks, including:
- develop a methodological framework
- implement operational processes for emerging risk identification
- identify and assess selected sources of information
- develop and test tools to collect and filter relevant information.
Each year EFSA publishes a report detailing its strategy and activities on emerging risks in food and feed.
In 2020-2021 EFSA launched three pilot projects for identifying emerging risks related to the circular economy, food fraud, and new food/feed sources and production techniques. Together with partners interested in these topics, e.g. the Commission’s DGs SANTE, AGRI and JRC, the European Environment Agency, Europol, World Health Organization, the projects aim to explore the usefulness of various sources of information (scientific literature, media, patent databases, CORDIS, stakeholder engagement) for identifying, analysing and characterising possible emerging risks. They will run over the next few years.
Also in 2021, EFSA will hold a joint meeting of experts, stakeholders and the Commission to discuss the EU Green Deal and anticipate emerging risks for food/feed safety and the environment linked to ‘Farm To Fork’ targets for 2030.
Emerging risk identification is a complex process requiring broad expertise and close cooperation with Member States, stakeholders, and EU and international agencies. Dedicated networks provide the structures needed to exchange experience, methods and data and to assess emerging issues.