The safety and wholesomeness of food, and I shall add feed, has always been important for mankind. Food is the consumer product with which we have the closest and most intimate contact in our live, we eat it! Don’t we say that “We are what we eat”? Therefore, this is about us, this is about our health. It is important at domestic and national level. It is important for trade. The growth in international trade means that food safety hazards which may have previously been confined in a relatively small area can now disseminate with ease across countries and continents. It is therefore a global issue. All truth being told, food as never been as safe as it is today in most countries, including in developing countries to some extent. However, emergencies and international emergencies have multiplied over the past decades (e.g...) Certainly, this can be due to perception, the concerns of the civil society.... This is why, I would like to restrict the definition of emergency to a functional aspect: “a situation which we may not be able to cope with mobilizing usual resources”. But, having said that, emergencies have never the less multiplied and their impact can be far reaching, as we will see. Accordingly, reacting to food safety events in isolation and after their occurrence, is inadequate. Anticipation, prevention, and timely action should be the principal means to counter food safety threats.
Over the past few decades, the movement of people and food has risen across national borders; Worldwide food and agricultural exports have more than doubled from US$400 billion in 2000 to US$900 billion in 2007; Globalization has also changed food consumption and production patterns. Food products are increasingly produced and/or consumed in areas where they were not present before. Also, foods intended for a particular use are now consumed differently depending on the location. If the expansion of food trade has facilitated better access to, and increased the availability of food worldwide, it has also given rise to new concerns about food safety.
Food safety is an important component of food security, which is also a growing world-wide concern. Food scarcity can coerce populations to consume whatever food is available even if it is unsafe or contaminated. Moreover, a food safety scare in a country already facing food scarcity can severely disrupt the food supply and cause further wastage of available food. On the over hand, any attempt to prevent food scarcity entails the intensification of food production by application of additional inputs such as fertilizers, pesticides and veterinary medicines. This bring new potential risks resulting from their misuse due to the lack of information and training.
Food production chains are more and more spread from a temporal and geographical point of view. They are more and more complex. The various ingredients of a food product are increasingly grown, processed and consumed in different locations around the globe. This multiplies vulnerabilities in multiple points. Therefore, food safety events at any point in the chain may affect multiple markets worldwide. On the over hand, local food safety events can lead to trade restrictions and market losses and this can affect all participants in the supply chain. Facing that situation, countries with robust food safety emergency early warning and response systems would likely not be severely affected. However, in countries where food control systems are weak and strengthening is needed, the consequences of food safety emergency situation can be severe.
The actual risk to public health varies depending on the magnitude of the events and consumer perception. This may have significant socio-economic consequences, such as a loss of confidence in some food products, their sources or their producers. The resulting impact in terms of loss of livelihoods, food productivity, long-term economic consequences, sustainability of the food supply is far reaching and could ultimately impact human development.
Countries around the world have diverse food policy and food control systems, and different priorities. The perception of the severity of food safety emergencies also varies. Therefore, the harmonization of food safety policies in general, as well as defining common parameters for applying preventative or emergency measures, is a challenge. However, as global trade is built on supply chains, it is not in the economic interest of any country to be the weak link in the chain. Food safety threats must be anticipated and addressed before they become larger problems. Supporting countries to achieve internationally accepted food safety and quality standards from farm to the table is necessary to prevent and deal with global food safety emergencies.
Advances in food technology have contributed to the development of novel food products and the use of improved methods in food processing. Innovation in the food processing industry generally improve food safety and respond to a growing consumer demand. However, this can also be a challenge for food safety due to the lack of proficiency in the implementation of new technology in some countries. New technologies may be key to analyze various food and feed components and contaminants such as pathogens and toxins in food. Their use will likely aid in early warning and emergency response systems.
Climate change is likely to have a considerable effect on the occurrence of food safety hazards. Rapid industrialisation of many areas in the developing world could further accentuate the dynamics of climate change and its effects on crop yields, biofuel production, soil quality, water availability, food contaminants, animal diseases patterns including zoonoses and pesticide use. Changes in cropping patterns and a reduction in crop biodiversity may create shifts in food distribution and consumption. New unforeseen issues, as they arise, may have to be considered in developing the framework of a horizon scanning and early warning system.
This is why, EMPRES Food Safety was established following requests from FAO members to develop conceptual approaches and strategies to tackle international food safety emergency events. It was endorsed during the 21st Committee on Agriculture (COAG) session in April 2009, as a key unit result of FAO’s internal Strategic Objective D in the area of food quality and safety. It was confirmed at the FAO Conference in November 2009.
Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division also carries out capacity building, provision of scientific advice, serves as Codex secretariat, collaborates with other partners EMPRES Food Safety complements the other work of the division. Internally, EMPRES Food Safety is a part of FAO’s Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division (AGND), which has a more than 50 year history of work in international food safety matters, including: the provision of scientific advice, delivering food safety capacity building activities, hosting the Codex Alimentarius Commission secretariat, EMPRES Food Safety also benefits from all FAO expertise along the food chain (see FCC) Externally, EMPRES Food safety collaborates with key international food safety partners (World Health Organization- WHO, World Trade Organization- WTO, World Organization for Animal Health- OIE and others)
As, I sai, our vision is all about prevention: anticipation and preparedness are the cornerstones of EMPRES Food safety.
EMPRES Food Safety is a holistic and multidisciplinary programme. It aims to prevent and deal with food safety emergencies at a global level by partnering with international, regional and national agencies, as well as FAO decentralized offices. Its broad approach is to work with existing initiatives to prevent, mitigate, and manage food safety threats.
EMPRES Food Safety system is based on 3 essential strategic pillars: Early warning, Emergency prevention Rapid response This strategic approach calls for 8 major elements or group of activities to achieve the programme’s aim as shows in this figure.
The first strategic pillar is the early warning on food safety threats.
EMPRES Food Safety will engage with INFOSAN to provide early warning of food safety threats. The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), established in 2004, is a joint FAO/WHO initiative. This global network includes most FAO and WHO member countries. INFOSAN monitors food safety events, promotes and coordinates information exchange, and advises countries on potential food safety threats. It alerts its members of imminent food safety threats based on credible indicators. This process includes incident scanning, identification and verification. WHO has access to public health information and communication with public health officials; FAO has access to food production information and communication with agricultural agencies. The outputs from this early warning is utilized for: Short term, rapid prevention efforts (element 3) Prioritizing issues, developing prevention projects (element 4-6) Response to food safety emergencies occurring (element 8).
EMPRES Food Safety undertakes horizon scanning to detect and analyze early, and possibly low-key, signals that could suggest a food safety threat at the food production and processing levels. This process complements the food safety incident scanning activities of INFOSAN. The signals may include: changes in plant pest and disease patterns, alterations in food consumption trends, shifts in climate or cropping patterns, or identified vulnerabilities in the food chain including high-risk food handling practices. EMPRES Food safety collects data and intelligence, analyse trends and synthesise information for its members. It can be used as input to identify and then prioritize food safety threats (in element 4) followed by filling of knowledge gaps (in element 5) and development of projects to prevent these threats from becoming emergencies (in element 6). This information also feeds into INFOSAN to provide early warning of imminent food safety threats. Strong partnerships and information sharing are essential for effectively conducting horizon scanning for food safety threats. EMPRES Food Safety utilizes the experiences of FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture (GIEWS), F ood Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Systems (FIVIMS) and other horizon scanning efforts of FAO to improve its horizon scanning approach and methods EMPRES Food Safety will develop an international network to gather information and intelligence to conduct horizon scanning, including other FAO units and decentralized offices, other UN agencies, national and regional government bodies, universities, research institutes and related groups. EMPRES Animal Health, EMPRES Plant Protection, and other relevant FAO units such as Fisheries and Land and Water will be included in the network, as well as the other international agencies including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( OECD), OIE, WHO, the World Food Programme (WFP), and WTO.
The second and most important strategic pillar is the prevention of food safety emergencies.
EMPRES Food Safety utilizes early warning information from INFOSAN, from current food safety emergencies and other credible sources to identify countries that require short term, immediate action to prevent food safety threats from occurring, escalating or recurring. When a food safety emergency event is occurring, EMPRES Food Safety will determine if actions are required within that country, or in neighbouring and trading-partner countries, to prevent such an event from occurring again in the future and to prevent worsening of the situation.
Numerous food safety threats are identified through horizon scanning, and rapid investigation of imminent food safety threats. Although all these threats are important, some threats require more immediate and larger-scale action than others. Therefore, these threats must be prioritized at the international, regional, and eventually at the national level. In order to conduct this prioritization, an a methodology will be developed to list, classify and rank these threats. EMPRES Food Safety will associate leading world and regional experts in this exercise to better assist officials at international, regional, and national levels to make appropriate decisions to prevent food safety threats from becoming emergencies.
Experts will also identify critical knowledge gaps. EMPRES Food Safety works with the FAO/WHO Provision of Scientific Advice group to hold the relevant expert meetings on issues that require immediate attention. In addition to those addressed by FAO’s Provision of Scientific Advice process.
Some food safety threats require longer-term, multi-faceted, and multi-disciplinary projects to prevent them from escalating to an emergency situation. Many of these threats exist at a regional and even international level. Based on the identification and prioritization of these threats with member countries, EMPRES Food Safety will collaborate with other technical Divisions and decentralized offices on project aimed to provide long-term, sustainable prevention of the threats identified as most critical.
One of the key aspects of preventing food safety emergencies is for countries to establish a state of constant preparedness against current and future threats. To assist countries to improve their preparedness, FAO and WHO developed a Framework document for developing Food Safety Emergency Response (FSER) plans. This document provides useful guidance for establishing and strengthening cross-sectoral cooperation across national ministries and agencies with responsibilities for food safety, such as Agriculture and Public Health, which is crucial for addressing potential food safety emergencies, as well as routine food safety issues. EMPRES Food Safety continues to develop this framework document, in addition to developing further guidance documents and training materials to assist countries in implementing food safety emergency preparedness plans. EMPRES Food Safety, together with relevant FAO initiatives, will organize regional seminars, as well as national workshops, to raise awareness of the need for preparedness planning and for information exchange in this regard. EMPRES Food Safety works closely with the FAO capacity building team to gain input into the process of improving member countries’ preparedness for food safety emergencies, as well as to provide input to the capacity building teams’ other activities.
Finally, the last strategic pillar aims at allowing FAO to respond to member countries requests, when all prevention tolls failed, to respond to Food safety emergencies and to minimize their impact.
Despite prevention efforts, some food safety emergencies will still occur. Emergencies can be identified through INFOSAN early warnings, horizon scanning, normative capacity building, and request from countries, particularly after improving preparedness. EMPRES Food safety will enable FAO to timely respond to member countries requesting assistance and support during food safety emergencies. It will maintain a roster of experts. Fund will be mobilized by the technical cooperation department to organize rapid response missions and operations if requested.
EMPRES Food safety Will also work with emergency operations personnel in response, but EMPRES Food Safety provides technical leadership. Through the appraisal, the best possible emergency responses will be agreed. The assistance may include problem identification, testing, validating actions taken, resource mobilizing, guidance in risk communication, and monitoring preparedness for future emergencies
EMPRES Food Safety
EMPRES Food Safety
Why should we address food safety emergencies? <ul><li>Food safety: important global issue </li></ul><ul><li>International food safety emergencies have multiplied </li></ul><ul><li>Must anticipate, prevent, and respond in timely manner </li></ul>
Key factors surrounding food safety emergencies <ul><li>1. Globalization of (food) trade, changes in food consumption </li></ul>
Key factors surrounding food safety emergencies <ul><li>2. Connection with food security </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Food scarcity: people may consume unsafe food </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Food safety scare: may reduce food available </li></ul></ul>
Key factors surrounding food safety emergencies <ul><li>3. Internationalisation of food safety emergencies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Threat in one country can quickly spread </li></ul></ul>
Key factors surrounding food safety emergencies <ul><li>4. Socio-economic impact </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Even a perceived risk </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>consumer confidence </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Loss of livelihoods possible </li></ul></ul>
Key factors surrounding food safety emergencies <ul><li>5. Policy and capacity considerations </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Capacity for food safety emergencies varies </li></ul></ul>
Key factors surrounding food safety emergencies <ul><li>7. Impact of emerging issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Climate change </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Change in cropping patterns </li></ul></ul>
Why and when EMPRES Food Safety was established <ul><li>Requests from FAO members </li></ul><ul><li>COAG (April 2009) endorsed </li></ul><ul><li>FAO Conference (Nov 2009) confirmed </li></ul>
FAO/WHO Scientific Advice FAO Capacity Development Codex Secretariat In FAO Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division EMPRES: supported by solid provision of scientific advice and capacity development expertise - Complements other divisional work Partners (eg. WHO, WTO) Human Nutrition
EMPRES Strategic Plan <ul><li>Multi-disciplinary </li></ul><ul><li>Work with existing initiatives, groups </li></ul><ul><ul><li>International, regional, national agencies, FAO decentralized offices </li></ul></ul>
Element 1 : Provide early warning <ul><li>INFOSAN: FAO/WHO International Food Safety Authorities Network (2004) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Promotes, coordinates information exchange </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Advises countries on potential FS threats </li></ul></ul>
Element 2 : Conduct horizon scanning <ul><li>Analyse low-key signals to anticipate threats </li></ul><ul><li>Complements INFOSAN event identification </li></ul><ul><li>Strong partnerships, info sharing essential </li></ul>
Element 3 : Prevent escalation of imminent threats <ul><li>Timely scientific advice and recommendations </li></ul><ul><li>Prevent threat from occurring, escalating, recurring </li></ul>
Element 4 : Prioritize food safety threats <ul><li>At international, regional, national levels </li></ul><ul><li>Will develop prioritization guidance to assist </li></ul>
Element 5 : Fill knowledge gaps <ul><li>FAO/WHO Provision of Scientific Advice </li></ul><ul><ul><li>List of other research gaps to be advertised to scientists worldwide </li></ul></ul>
Element 6 : Formulate and prepare prevention projects <ul><li>After prioritization, develop projects </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Long-term, sustainable prevention of key threats </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Work with capacity building team, members, decentralized offices, tech cooperation group </li></ul>
Element 7 : Provide tools, advice and activities for preparedness <ul><li>FAO/WHO Framework for Developing Food Safety Emergency Response (FSER) plans </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Other guidance tools planned </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Conduct training on implementing tools </li></ul>
Element 8 : Conduct rapid response <ul><li>FAO to prepare for rapid response </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Tools, personnel, expert roster </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>(regular programme funds) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Supporting rapid response, upon member request </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Funds needed before emergency occurs </li></ul></ul>
Element 8 : Conduct rapid response <ul><li>Work with national authorities, FAO Food Chain Crisis Management (FCC) </li></ul><ul><li>Conduct urgent appraisal, mobilize experts </li></ul>
Conclusion <ul><li>EMPRES Food Safety complements existing related activities </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Including scientific advice and capacity building </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Implementing strategy assists members to deal with food safety emergencies </li></ul>
<ul><li>Contact us at: </li></ul><ul><li>[email_address] </li></ul>