Food safety and quality

INFOSAN Members' guide


The International Food Safety Authorities Network, often referred to as INFOSAN, now has a new reference document for its members to better understand their roles and responsibilities. When a food safety incident related to international food trade occurs, quick action by different sectors is needed to mitigate risk for consumers, the publication explains. By setting forth what the various agencies need to do, this publication will allow for more effective collaboration in emergency response. 

The 38-page publication, called INFOSAN Members’ Guide, starts off with a general overview of the INFOSAN structure – how it works, the way it is organized and managed – and then goes on to define the roles and responsibilities of members, the INFOSAN Secretariat and the Advisory Group. It illustrates the ideal national-level set-up of various focal points, representing different sectors and authorities, who work with an emergency contact point. 

“Food safety is multidisciplinary in nature and necessitates multisectoral collaboration, not only within countries, but within and between multilateral organizations,” the publication states, explaining the complex business of preventing, detecting, preparing for and responding to food safety emergencies. 

The guide describes the operational aspects of detecting and assessing international food safety incidents as well as rapidly exchanging information, which is the network’s main function. “When you consider the type of information that needs to be shared in a food safety incident, you can appreciate the difficulties,” said Eleonora Dupouy of the FAO INFOSAN Secretariat. “Tracing the food product, export and distribution details in addition to epidemiologic information, bacterial strain characteristics, which can include whole genome sequencing data, is essential, and needs to be done quickly in food safety events caused by biological hazards.” 

The INFOSAN Members’ Guide is intended to be used as a functional reference guide for competent authorities. The INFOSAN Secretariat encourages members to review the guide to become familiar with the operational aspects of the network and their roles and responsibilities for more effective contributions and response to food safety incidents. Sources of information are described along with guidance on how to report food safety incidents to the INFOSAN Secretariat. The guide also provides real life examples of foodborne disease outbreaks and tips on using the INFOSAN Community Website, which gives members direct access to more than 600 food safety experts from 190 countries. 

Developed by the INFOSAN Secretariat, the publication was reviewed by the INFOSAN Advisory Group following a consultative process in which all INFOSAN members were invited to provide comments.  

Download the publication here

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