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Food safety research project to keep its PROMISE

By Joe Whitworth+

22-Apr-2014
Last updated the 24-Apr-2014 at 11:21 GMT

EU research offers 'promise' of improved food safety
EU research offers 'promise' of improved food safety

An EU project which runs until the end of year is working towards food safety and quality in the region.

PROMISE was created to improve and increase integration, collaboration and knowledge transfer between the new member states, old member states (EU15) and candidate countries.

It is tackling issues such as traceability, risk communication and pathogen transmission.

The aim is to integrate public health authorities and national food safety authorities from old and new member countries to use research results for standardisation and harmonisation efforts.

Importance of food safety

The issue of food safety has rocketed up the political agenda in recent years but despite huge improvements, some concerns and problems still persist,” said the project consortium.

“Fears about our food are moving away from issues about ensuring an adequate supply and choice of products towards matters of food safety, animal welfare, plant health and labelling and traceability.

“Pathogens attack the food supply chain at certain points, usually in the pre-harvest or harvest area, and can then survive decontamination procedures through their adaptive responses to remain in the final products.”

The consortium will analyse, assess and interpret the risk of introducing new strains of pathogen by illegal importation of food from third countries into the EU, where supply chains are not controlled.

These uncontrolled imports present the risk that new strains of traditional pathogens will be transferred from third countries into the European Union,” they said.

A training workshop for young researchers last year in Dublin allowed training on methods, techniques and practical knowledge of detecting food pathogens.

The first specific stakeholder event, focused on food safety issues due to pathogenic organisms, was offered as a webinar in Europe.

Scientific approach

PROMISE is coordinated by the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. Prof Martin Wagner, head of the Institute for Milk Hygiene, Milk Technology and Food Science, is its scientific coordinator.
“The PROMISE scientific approach focuses on microbiological risks and their mitigation. Much is known in the EU and candidate countries on classical routes of transmission of pathogens within food chains,” he said.

“Nevertheless, border controls at places like airports and border checkpoints seem to be ineffective barriers at preventing import of food items.”

Consortium members include the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BFR), Germany, Institute of Food Research (IFR), UK and the Food Safety Authority, Ireland (FSAI).