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Food Quality and Safety: Thematic priority 5 under the Focusing and Integrating Community Research programme 2002-2006.

The Sixth Framework Programme for research and technological development is structured in three main blocks of activities. 'Focusing and Integrating Community Research', 'Structuring the European Research Area, and 'Strengthening the foundations of the European Research Area'. The 'Food Quality and Safety' is one of the thematic priorities under 'Focusing and Integrating Community Research'. The priority thematic areas (seven in total) of 'Focusing and Integrating Community Research' represent the main part of expenditure under the sixth framework programme (2002-2006). A highly focused Community research effort and an open coordination with regional, national, European and international frameworks are foreseen to reach the overall objectives of the different priorities.

An end-user driven approach is reflected in the seven specific research priorities and objectives. 'Food quality and safety' re-addresses the classical approach 'from farm to fork'. It aims to ensure that consumer protection is the main driver for developing new and safer food and feed production chains. This is possible in particular thanks to biotechnology tools taking into account the latest results of genomics research.

This end-user driven approach is reflected in the seven specific research objectives. Priority is given to integrated research approaches crossing several specific objectives. Given that small enterprises constitute a major part of the food sector, the success of activities undertaken will rely on the adaptation of knowledge and processes to the specific characteristics of these enterprises.
'Food Quality and Safety' (Priority area 5) aims to assure the health and well-being of European citizens through a better understanding of the influence of food intake and environmental factors on human health. It also aims to provide European consumers with safer, high-quality and health-promoting foods, including seafood. This will be achieved through fully controlled and integrated production systems originating in agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries.
The Community activities carried out under the 'Food quality and safety' thematic priority cover the following areas:

1. Epidemiology of food-related diseases and allergies:
The aim is to examine the complex interactions between food intake and metabolism, immune system, genetic background and environmental factors to identify key risk factors and develop common European databases.
The research will focus on: epidemiological studies of the effect of diet, food composition and lifestyle factors, on the health of consumers and specific population groups such as children, and the prevention or development of specific diseases, allergies and disorders; methodologies for measuring and analysing food composition and dietary intake, risk assessment, epidemiological and intervention models; influences of genetic variability using advances in functional genomics.

2. Impact of food on health:
The aim is to provide the scientific basis for improving health through diet, and the development of new health-promoting foods by means of an improved understanding of food metabolism and by harnessing the opportunities now available from proteomics and biotechnology. These new foods include, for instance, new products, products resulting from organic farming, functional foods, products containing genetically modified organisms, and those arising from recent biotechnology developments.
The research will focus on overall relationship between diet and health; health promoting and disease prevention properties of foods; effects of food components, pathogens, chemical contaminants and new agents of prion type on health; nutrient requirements and health promoting intervention strategies; determinants of consumer attitudes towards food products and production; methodologies for risk/benefit assessment of nutrients and of bioactive compounds; specificities of different population groups, particularly the elderly and children.

3. 'Traceability' processes all along the production chain:
The aim is to strengthen the scientific and technological basis for ensuring complete traceability for instance of genetically modified organisms. This is expected to help increase consumer confidence in the food supply.
The research will focus on development, validation and harmonisation of technologies and methodologies (to ensure complete traceability throughout the food chain); scale-up, implementation and validation of methods in whole food chains; assurance of authenticity; validity of labelling and; application of HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point) to the whole food chain.

4. Methods of analysis, detection and control:
The aim is to contribute to the development, improvement, validation and harmonisation of reliable and cost effective sampling and measurement strategies for chemical contaminants and pathogenic micro-organisms (existing or emerging, such as viruses, bacteria, yeasts, fungi, parasites, and new agents of the prion type including development of ante mortem diagnostic tests for BSE and scrapie). This will help to control the safety of the food and feed supply and to ensure accurate data for risk analysis.
The research will focus on: methods and standards for analysing and detecting foodborne pathogens and chemical contaminants, including pre-normative aspects; modelling and approaches to improve existing prevention and control strategies; detection tests and geographical mapping of prions; transfer and longevity of prions.

5. Safer and environmentally friendly production methods and healthier foodstuffs:
The aim is to develop lower input farming systems (agriculture and aquaculture) based on systems such as integrated production, lower-input methods including organic agriculture and the use of plant and animal sciences and biotechnologies and improved transformation processes aimed at producing safer and healthier nutritious, functional and varied foodstuffs, and animal feed, and improving the quality of food and feed through innovative technologies.
The research will focus on development of improved integrated production systems, lower-input farming, organic farming and genetically-modified organism (GMO) based production as well as processing and distribution methods and innovative technologies for safer, nutritious and higher quality food and feed; individual and comparative assessment of safety, quality, environmental impact and competitiveness aspects of different production methods and foodstuffs; improvement of animal husbandry, waste-management and animal welfare from housing to slaughter; application of plant and animal sciences and biotechnologies, including the application of genomics, for the development of higher quality food raw materials and nutritious foods.

6. Impact of animal feed on human health:
The aim is to improve understanding of the role of animal feed in food safety to reduce the use of undesirable raw materials and to develop alternative new animal feed sources. Research on animal feed include products containing genetically modified organisms and the use of sub-products of different origins for that feed.
Research will focus on: epidemiological studies of animal-feed induced food-borne diseases; influence of raw materials, including waste and by-products of different origins, processing methods, additives and veterinary drugs used in animal feed on animal and human health; improved waste management, to ensure exclusion of specified high-risk and condemned materials from the feed chain; novel protein, fat and energy sources other than meat and bone meal for optimal animal growth, reproductive potential and food product quality.

6. Environmental health risks:
The aim is to identify the environmental factors that are detrimental to health, to understand the mechanisms involved and to determine how to prevent or minimise these effects and risks.
a) Risks linked to the food-chain (chemical, biological and physical);
b) Combined exposures of authorised substances (including impact of local environmental disasters and pollution on the safety of foodstuffs). The emphasis is on cumulative risks, transmission routes to human beings, long-term effects and exposure to small doses and the impact on particularly sensitive groups, (especially children).
Research will focus on identification of causal agents including contaminants, and physiological mechanisms, of environmental, and food-linked environmental hazards; understanding of exposure pathways, estimation of cumulative, low dose and combined exposures; long-term effects; definition and protection of susceptible sub-groups; environmental causes and mechanisms responsible for the increase in allergies; impact of endocrine disrupters; chronic chemical pollution and combined environmental exposures, transmission of illnesses linked to water (parasites, viruses, bacteria, etc).

The research activities carried out within this thematic priority area will include exploratory research at the leading edge of knowledge on subjects closely related to one or more topics within it. Two complementary approaches will be utilised: one receptive and open - the other proactive.
The Commission is responsible for the implementation of the specific programme. The Commission draws up a work programme for the implementation of the specific programme, setting out in greater detail the objectives, scientific and technological priorities as well as the timetable for implementation. The work programme takes account of relevant research activities carried out by the Member States, Associated States and European and international organizations and will be updated where appropriate.

A committee assists the Commission in this. The Commission regularly publishes reports on the overall progress of the implementation of the specific programme, including information on financial aspects and the use of instruments. The Commission arranges independent monitoring and assessment of the framework programme to be conducted concerning the activities carried out in the fields covered by the specific programme.

The new instruments, networks of excellence and integrated projects, will be used from the start of the programme and, where deemed appropriate, as a priority means. However, the size of projects is not a criterion for exclusion, and access to new instruments is ensured for SMEs and other small entities. The use of specific targeted projects and coordination actions is maintained.

In addition to research and technological development, the networks of excellence and integrated projects may incorporate the following types of activity, if they are of specific relevance to the research objectives:
- Demonstration, dissemination and exploitation;
- Cooperation with researchers and research teams from third countries;
- Human resource development, including the promotion of training of researchers; development of research facilities and infrastructure of specific relevance to the research being undertaken; and promotion of better links between science and society, including women in science.

Specific targeted research projects, coordination actions and specific support actions, may also be used in the spirit of the 'stairway of excellence' in the implementation of the thematic priorities.

In certain cases, when a project receives the maximum level of co-financing authorised under the framework programme or an overall grant, an additional contribution from the Structural Funds can be granted. In the case of participation of entities from the associated candidate countries, an additional contribution from the pre-accession financial instruments can be granted under similar conditions. In the case of participation of organisations from Mediterranean or developing countries, a contribution of the MEDA programme and of the financial instruments of the Community's aid to development can be envisaged.

In carrying out the programme, the Commission may have recourse to technical assistance. In 2004 an independent expert group undertook an evaluation of the efficiency of the instruments in the execution of the Sixth Framework Programme.

Fundamental ethical principles must be respected during the implementation of this programme and in the research activities arising from it. Fundamental ethical principles include the principles reflected in the Charter of fundamental rights of the EU and include the following: protection of human dignity and human life, protection of personal data and privacy, as well as animals and the environment in accordance with Community law and relevant international conventions and codes of conduct.
The opinions of the European Group of Advisers on the Ethical Implications of Biotechnology (1991-1997) and the opinions of the European Group on Ethics in Science and New technologies (as from 1998) need also to be taken into account.