Sécurité sanitaire et qualité des aliments

The importance of effective communication during international food safety events


The rapid globalization of food production and trade is associated with increased potential for international incidents involving unsafe food. As a result, food safety issues occurring in one country may become a concern to other countries. While implementing effective prevention strategies throughout the entire food chain is the most effective way to produce safe food, it is impossible to eliminate all food safety risks.  

Addressing incidents that result from contamination of food by microbiological, chemical or physical hazards requires rapid access to, and exchange of, food safety information at the national, regional and international levels. Clear, reliable and accurate information is essential to allow food safety authorities to implement effective prevention, response and risk management measures, and to maintain consumer confidence in the food supply and international food trade. 

“Timely communication to INFOSAN is vital,” said Eleonora Dupouy, FAO Food Safety and Quality Officer, noting that “INFOSAN is as a sound partner that competent authorities can rely on for help to contain the spread of unsafe food and foodborne disease between regions.”

Channels of communication on food safety issues must be well established within and between countries to facilitate efficient outbreak investigations, food recalls or other risk mitigation measures and prevent national and international food safety emergenciesIt is for these reasons that FAO and WHO jointly operate the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN). 

According to the new publication INFOSAN Activity Report 2018/2019, in the biennium, the INFOSAN Secretariat responded to 162 international food safety events – nearly double the number of events reported in any previous biennia. During these events, the INFOSAN Secretariat facilitated communication and shared important food safety information among Network members. This helped countries to remove contaminated food from international and domestic markets, thereby protecting consumers from  the risk of foodborne disease. 

Since the establishment of INFOSAN in 2004its membership has continued to grow and as of November 2020, 190 Member States and more than 600 users globally have joined the networkSustained efforts at the Secretariat are ongoing to encourage members to remain active and engaged. Active information exchanges have been facilitated through various means of communication including the INFOSAN Community Website. The INFOSAN Community Website is the main platform through which members communicate with each other and with the INFOSAN SecretariatMembers have continued to utilize the discussion forum to ask questions and share information, particularly on food safety events of international concern. 

As a member-driven network, a united and sustained effort has been continued to be made by all INFOSAN members for the Network to reach its full potential. To support such effort, the INFOSAN Secretariat continued to offer training opportunities, including through webinars to provide orientation to new members, help formulate regional strategies to prioritize issues and strengthen the bonds and communication among the members, as well as build up links to other networks and initiatives, such as the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA)connecting food safety professionals from across the world.  

Two webinar sessions are to be held: 26 November 2020 for Member States in Europe and Central Asia and 10-11 December 2020 for members in the Americas in which the participants will discuss the key features of food safety incidents and emergency responses in their respective regionsprocedures to engage with INFOSAN as well as innovative opportunities to identify foodborne pathogens, most frequent cause of food safety incidents.  

INFOSAN will continue to play an important role in exchanging rapid information that helps halt the international spread of contaminated food and prevent foodborne disease outbreaks, and ultimately helps strengthen food safety systems globally. FAO and WHO count on the commitment and support from dedicated INFOSAN members around the world. 

Read more about INFOSAN

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