Food safety is now embedded into health and well-being and food security, rather than being mentioned in its own right.
The consortium said it produced a document of priority topics to stress a continuing emphasis on food safety in Horizon 2020 Work Programmes.
Topics were chosen by the SAFE Consortium members related with the areas prioritized in the Vision Document, “Keeping Food Safety on the Agenda”.
Begoña Pérez Villarreal, SAFE chair of the executive board, said it is important to pay attention and prioritize some research topics and make food safety more visible in Horizon 2020.
“SAFE’s concern is that we shouldn’t forget that our food chain is still vulnerable and that we need to ensure that the safety and stability of our food supplies are not compromised,” she told FoodQualityNews.com
“Due to the dynamic nature of the food chain, new issues regarding safety cannot be considered something from the past.”
Topics of interest
Topics are ‘Consumer trust in the food chain’, ‘Elimination of enterohemorrhagic pathogens from the fresh produce production chain’, ‘Employment of computational methods to mitigate food safety risks across the whole chain’ and ‘New technological approaches for reducing allergenic risk in foods’.
Consumers are expressing concerns about safety and nutritional quality of their food through alterations in purchasing and preparation habits to more profound changes in lifestyle, said SAFE.
Proposals could include knowledge on the drivers of consumer trust to be fully defined, correlation of demographic indicators associated with food safety and quality concerns, learning theory to explain how an individual’s risk perception changes over time and analysis of the underlying reasons for the current status of consumer trust in the food chain.
Fresh produce problem
Repeated European foodborne illness outbreaks associated with fresh produce is of particular concern as it has become increasingly popular among European consumers in the last two decades.
In relation to the second topic, Pérez Villarreal said there are several challenges.
“Understanding the influence of mixed microbial populations (e.g. natural plant microflora with human pathogens) on the efficiency of decontamination processes; design and optimize the use of the best decontamination and preservation hurdles for each type of fresh produce production chain; and developing better predictive tools to improve the safety of fruits and vegetables.”
The past decade has seen developments in risk assessment techniques and tools which are beginning to have an impact on decision making processes used by risk managers in government and industry.
“Risk assessment principles and procedures have advanced significantly, but their implementation in the food chain is lacking, mainly due to the absence of appropriate decision making tools,” said Pérez Villarreal.
“The highly complex issues involved in the management of food safety risks require sophisticated management tools that should be validated in real conditions. Their implementation will allow a progressive standardization of risk assessment studies and methods in Europe.”
Previous EU Projects have focused on food allergens and covered risk assessment, prevalence, characterization and development of “classical” detection methods.
Little research has explored the impact on food allergens of “old” (pressure-based, thermal-based) and novel technological approaches or the multiple enzymatic digestion of allergenic proteins.
Allergens are already recognised as an important food safety and publish health issue, said Pérez Villarreal.
“The incidence of allergens appears to be increasing, and new allergies arising from the use of novel ingredients and technologies need to be prevented. There is a need to develop ready-to-use methods to detect known, novel and “hidden” allergens.
“At the same time, the development of hypoallergenic or “tolerable” foods and new ingredients/ food additives/ enzymes will improve the lifestyle of millions of EU citizens with food allergies.”