Project title: Pan-European Pro-Active Identification of Emerging Risks in the Field of Food Production.
Contract no.: 510175
Start date of contract: 2003-12-01
Project Duration (in months): 9
PERIAPT is a preparatory action undertaken within the activities of the European Community for the networking of national or regional programs within the European research area (ERA-NET). PERIAPT aims to define measures to improve the proactive identification of emerging risks in food and feed production as key tools for ministries, national food authorities and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). PERIAPT has brought together partners, which are all actively involved in the management of national or regional research programs on emerging food safety risks. Within the framework of this preparatory action the partners have established for the first time a forum for the interchange of managerial information and expertise in the field of research programming on the topic of emerging risk identification within Europe.
The project’s overarching methodology is: (1) to establish a network of research programming organisations operating in the field of food and feed safety by means of web-based communication and working groups; (2) to write documents summarising the state-of-the-art and identifying needs and gaps; (3) to organise a workshop including decision rooms to seek input and feedback from experts and relevant stakeholders; (4) to develop a masterplan for transnational joint activities within the ERA-NET scheme and, (5) to recruit other countries in addition to the current consortium. PERIAPT’s deliberations are grouped under four headings (workpackages): exchange of information on national and regional programs: state-of-the-art analysis; identification of a common research strategy and policy: analysis of needs and constraints; development of programming requirements for networking: collation of expert opinions and, the establishment of an enlarged sustainable platform: transnational joint activities.
PERIAPT started with an inventory of existing research activities on the topic of emerging risk Identification within the current European Members States and regions. From this inventory it is concluded that most programming bodies do not tackle emerging risks in specifically designed national or regional research programs. In this field research is scattered around in projects, which makes it difficult to extract a harmonised, best practice, approach from these activities. Therefore, the PERIAPT project has developed a common concept, which recommends applying a holistic approach on programming future research related to the emerging risk identification.
What have we missed in the past and today? Traditionally, the identification and assessment of food- and feed-related risks is achieved through expertise from within the food and feed supply chains. However, due to recent developments in globalisation, food technology leading to new/altered sources of food or novel foods, climate changes (temperature rise), political and social developments, consumer behaviour and perception and more proactive risk management strategies, it becomes necessary to look for information available outside the food supply chain. Exploring only the food or feed chain for the identification of emerging risks is probably a too narrow approach and may in specific cases only identify a problem when food safety is already threatened. The necessary information is likely to be drawn from a combination of knowledge both from inside as well as from outside the food supply chain (i.e. covering the fork to farm/fisheries chain and its host environment). This holistic vision was put to the test in an international workshop held in Bonn. Invited stakeholders with different scientific and managerial expertise and representing different stakeholder groups, ranging from academia, research institutions to industry and consumer organisations, were informed of the envisaged holistic approach and were challenged to comment on the approach. Furthermore, the stakeholders were introduced to the principles of game-theoretic models to predict the impact of human behaviour on decision-making and, subsequently the evolution of emerging risks. With respect to this latter aspect, the feasibility of using game-theory in the proactive networking system was questioned. The invited outstanding expert on this topic, Nobel prize laureate Professor Dr Reinhard Selten (University Bonn), concluded that game theory can be certainly used as a proactive risk management tool as soon as the play, the actors and their interests are known, but it doesn’t hold a solution for the identification of emerging risks in the food and feed sector.
The vast majority of the stakeholder’s panel agreed that a holistic approach could be used as an instrument to identify the needs for a useful concerted research programming at the European level. One of their recommendations was to investigate the feasibility of this forward-looking approach by studying a specific group of hazards with a selected group of experts (i.e. focus group).
Extension of the project by 3 months made it possible to carry out the recommended feasibility study with a group of scientists specialised on the topic of emerging mycotoxins (i.e. toxic compounds produced by fungi found on crops and processed products). The lesson learnt was that the holistic vision to assess emerging risks (i.e. integrating the analysis of a supply chain and its host environment) could be used successfully for programming research on this specific topic. Further development of this approach at transnational level is encouraged and helps to avoid ‘surprising’ food scares in the future. Co-operation with another preparatory action called PROFORSAFE lead to the submission of a project called SAFEFOODERA2 in which the topic of emerging risks is addressed too. Meanwhile, this project has started in August 2004 and gives the opportunity to work out the holistic vision in more detail with a large group of new and old Member States (17 in total). The novel platform of research programming bodies will work together to map areas where there are synergies and opportunities for further research programming.
To summarise, it can be concluded that PERIAPT has successfully achieved:
· Demonstrated that stakeholders with very different interests and from all perspectives outside and inside the food and feed chain are interested and committed to working together to seek solutions based on the holistic vision (i.e. covering the fork to farm/fisheries chain and its host environment);
· Stimulated interest for future networking to focus, in depth, on the issue of emerging risk identification for European research, food safety development and policy;
· Facilitated an understanding of attitudes, expertise and knowledge from all stakeholders, which was anticipated and incorporated in the envisaged transnational research programming approach. This should in future ensure a best practice strategy to meet national, regional and European demands, while working towards future success of European research policy and programs;
· Provided an unique opportunity for research programming bodies to interact directly with all stakeholders involved in the risk analysis process including DG SANCO of the European Commission and EFSA;
· Introduced research programming bodies from the New Member States and European regions into the European research arena and research policy;
· Established excellent networks and personal contacts through this preparatory action at the national and European level;
· Has contributed towards building an increased understanding and solid foundation for improved trust between representatives of European research programming bodies;
· Sought and found an enlarged, sustainable, platform, which can realistically develop in the long term a transnational research program on emerging risks by enhanced co-operation of national and regional research programmes;
· Has been a major instrument for developing a transnational research program, which might be a major preventive instrument at the disposal of EFSA in the exercise of its risk assessment policy (Regulation (EC) No 178/2002).