87. The Workshop was chaired by Mr Nick Tomlinson, Head of Chemical Safety Division, Food Standards Agency in the United Kingdom.
88. The need to adapt food safety systems to keep up with the challenges posed by the globalization of food trade had been a recurring theme during the Global Forum. Given the potential threats to food safety right through the food chain there was a clear need for food regulators around the world to collaborate more closely and improve information exchange.
89. In the plenary session on Wednesday 13 October a practical demonstration was given of the potential application of INFOSAN. From the discussion at the side event on Monday 11 October it was clear that several countries had a number of questions regarding the use of INFOSAN.
90. Aim of the Workshop:
To facilitate a discussion on the practicalities of using INFOSAN and to offer suggestions on how to take the issue forward after GF-2 to best serve countries' needs.
Currently, one in three people worldwide are affected by food-borne disease. Many other food incidents have the potential to impact on consumers in more than one country. Therefore, the need to share information and experience is very clear. The Workshop was looking to explore the needs of countries and to help develop INFOSAN into a system that is of maximum benefit to all countries.
91. Three main areas were considered:
- Placing information on INFOSAN;
- Making use of information in the system;
- Operation of INFOSAN Emergency.
92. The need to identify clear principles for managing information was stressed so that the system will be as informative as possible. To avoid too much detail, it was suggested that it would not be appropriate to include raw data in the system and that criteria be developed regarding the placing of information on INFOSAN. Making use of practical examples, such as salmonella in tahini, would help identify the needs of countries using the system.
93. The need to start with a simple system which can evolve in the light of experience was recognized. An important feature should be to share information at any early stage on emerging issues, such as acrylamide and furans. The system should provide an opportunity to access to risk assessment documents dealing with these issues. This would have the potential to help with capacity building in many countries and also facilitate better use of risk management resources.
94. As a way of developing the system, it was suggested that a small group of developing and developed countries pilot the system. Their experience could be shared with other countries through an electronic forum. A number of networks and links to databases were identified that could be added to the system at a later date. It was also suggested that a workshop building on the pilot system should be convened at the next session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
95. This system is separate and distinct from INFOSAN and is intended only for emergency situations. Individual countries remain responsible for determining and declaring food safety emergencies. It was noted that Codex has adopted guidelines on sharing information in food safety emergencies.
96. The Workshop was informed that FAO/WHO have developed draft guidance for national INFOSAN Emergency Contact Points which will be circulated to them for comment shortly. A consultation will be held to then further develop the document.
97. It was recognized that INFOSAN Emergency will not be used very frequently. However, to ensure countries are prepared to deal with emergencies, exercises should be held at frequent intervals to test the system. The need to consider how to communicate with stakeholders when an emergency has ended was also recognized.
98. A number of capacity building issues were raised including training of contact points and access to the Internet. These were recognized to be important issues that need to be addressed for the system to work effectively.
99. INFOSAN has many potential benefits. Having INFOSAN in place will go a long way towards building effective food safety systems.