Безопасность и качество пищевых продуктов

Looking into broader adoption of AI and big data in food safety early warning


For good reason people want to know about imminent threats in advance – to get prepared to face and effectively manage them. In food safety, under the risk analysis umbrella, anticipation is possible through a combination of long-term, medium-term and short-term approaches, that include among others foresight which looks into drivers, analysis of scenarios and risk trends, risk assessment, early warning and rapid alert systems. Food safety early warning refers to a time spanning from the present for up to one year. Evidence screening and analysis is part of the early warning operations.

To better ensure the availability of safe food on our tables and domestic markets, a workshop was held on 12 May 2022 to highlight different open-source and open-access tools and methods that could be used in early warning systems. FAO and Wageningen Food Safety Research (WFSR) held two workshop sessions virtually with 83 experts from 23 countries, representing competent authorities responsible for food safety and academia from low and middle-income countries (LMICs).

“Evidence is critical for establishing the links between cause and effect. Given the speed at which technology is developing having a good understanding of how it can be used is an imperative duty that can be challenging for countries with low capacities and resources,” said Eleonora Dupouy, FAO Food Safety Officer who co-led the workshop. The workshop delved into tools that can be used to monitor the evolution of different hazards and help identify where controls need to be reinforced.

Better coordination among government agencies responsible for food safety and data sharing was noted by many participants as an area that needs more work. “Adopting a nexus approach, enhancing communication and data sharing among sectors are ingredients for greater awareness and better use of the food safety early warning and emerging risk identification methods and tools”, Dupouy said, emphasizing the One Health approach as a way to nurture the health of people, plants, animals and the environment at the same time.

Prior to the workshop, in March-April 2022, an expert survey investigated the use of AI and big data in food safety control for early warning and emerging risks identification. The results of the survey provided an overview of the current status, user needs and barriers for uptake. FAO and WFSR are planning a number of activities to follow up on the study and workshop, including to:

  • Finalize an analytic paper on food safety early warning tools, methods and characteristics with consideration of inputs from the participants in the workshop;
  • Select a range of open-access tools for food safety early warning and emerging risks identification that LMICs could use;
  • Compile methodologies and training materials for the use of identified tools to support their broader uptake;
  • Develop a guidance document and training materials for the practical use of selected tools for food safety early warning and emerging risks identification.

Read more: Enhancing Early Warning capabilities and Capacities for Food Safety. FAO Training Handbook. Rome 2016  

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