Researchers weigh the costs and benefits of food risk communication

By Caroline SCOTT-THOMAS contact

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety

The researchers aim to prevent contamination - and to reduce the impact to health and business when outbreaks occur
The researchers aim to prevent contamination - and to reduce the impact to health and business when outbreaks occur
Free movement of food ingredients in Europe raises food safety challenges for manufacturers – so what is the best way to avoid foodborne illness outbreaks and communicate risk with consumers?

A team of German researchers hopes to identify effective strategies to deal with foodborne pathogens with minimum impact on national economies in the course of a new three-year project, which started last month. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is coordinating the project, dubbed "Zoonoses and Food Safety Along Global Supply Chains"​ (ZooGloW), as part of a government safety research programme.

"The monitoring systems for foods are very different in the countries they are produced in,"​ said BfR President Prof Andreas Hensel. "The manufacturers and importers must also guarantee the safety of imported food.”

The project is using the global trade in pork and poultry products as examples, modelling the potential for contamination at different points in each supply chain. From this, the researchers hope to develop strategies for avoiding contamination, as well as initiatives to protect consumers if a foodborne illness outbreak occurs.

“Within the scope of economic analysis, the costs and benefits of expanded food monitoring are weighed up against the costs incurred by the national economy in the event of a crisis,”​ BfR said. “The changed consumption behaviour of the population in the event of a disease outbreak due to food is also an aspect of the economic observation.”

As part of the project, the researchers also aim to provide guidelines for risk communication specific to target groups, and to assess how well existing monitoring systems and regulations work to prevent outbreaks.

The project partners are the Charité, the Institute for Public Management, the Thünen Institute and the Veterinary University in Hanover. 

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