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Safe Food for Europe – Coordination of research activities and Dissemination of research results of EC funded research on food safety

Final Report Summary - FOODSEG (Safe Food for Europe – Coordination of research activities and Dissemination of research results of EC funded research on food safety)

Executive Summary:
FOODSEG, the European network of experts representing all phases along the feed and food chain up to the consumer, started in May 2011 and lasted until April 2014. Within these three years, the project organised three symposia with more than 300 attendees and several workshops in order to assess the state-of-the-art in 11 different research topics and defined new research topics for Horizon 2020. Despite the fact that the duration of the EU funding is finalised, the FOODSEG network will stay alive and will organise further symposia. The next symposium will be held in Rome, Italy, from 23rd until 24th of April 2015.
The FOODSEG approach is to arrange an efficient transfer of knowledge across the entire feed and food chain, from agricultural topics up to consumer issues. The coordination of the upcoming research in all the relevant fields targets food safety and high quality food and feed, while establishing a dissemination and communication platform for relevant publicly funded (mainly Framework Programme 7, Horizon 2020) research and innovation projects. The aim is to significantly improve quality as well as the use of existing research findings over the entire chain, from the feedstock and animal feed, to the healthy animal, and all the way to the food product, through a professionally designed network. The FOODSEG Network comprises members from different EU-countries but also accession countries like Turkey, and third countries like Vietnam and Egypt. In order to ensure the best possible transfer of knowledge in this open network, research findings from existing EU-supported research projects have been presented in three symposia.
Eleven working groups defined future research topics in various workshops and refined the recommendations of the most important research topics of the future. These topics have been promoted to national and European decision-making bodies. A "scientific review" was conducted on the current level of knowledge in the different fields of the working groups. This review has been published in a relevant journal and can be found on the FOODSEG website.
FOODSEG designed and implemented an online survey in order to identify gaps in research and policy issues in Europe. About 500 people completed the online questionnaire. The main findings show a high diversity and fragmentation on regulatory and policy issues related to animal health, feed, food and consumer issues in the different countries in Europe. Representatives from food safety authorities and policy makers exchanged know-how during the symposia and consequently supported the goal of implementing a more common approach in ensuring food safety in Europe. FOODSEG also organized a researchers exchange programme aimed at supporting the working groups. Junior and senior scientists visited selected organisations taking part in the FOODSEG network in order to learn about innovative methodologies and science but also to discuss related topics and projects in detail. FOODSEG also aimed to support further Framework Programme 7 and Horizon 2020 (EU research funding programmes) project proposals. Several bilateral collaborations between project partners have been initiated and are still on-going in order to work in a cooperative way on research and science along the whole feed and food chain. Policy recommendations have been established and exchanged with the relevant policy makers and decision makers in the relevant countries. Some of the FOODSEG experts are even represented in EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) panels and therefore had the chance to disseminate FOODSEG results internally. The impact on social issues is relatively difficult to assess as this project focused on research coordination and dissemination.

Project Context and Objectives:
The EU-funded project FOODSEG was a so-called Coordination and Support Action with a focus on coordinating research efforts in Europe. FOODSEG's overall objective was to disseminate state-of-the-art research results in food safety and quality topics through a series of symposia, expert working group meetings, and an online platform with best practice examples. Especially the coordination of collaborations between different institutions on related research and a plan for the preparation of future research activities were targeted by FOODSEG. In addition to the aim of
disseminating research results of finalised and current EC-funded FP6 and FP7 projects and other projects focusing on food safety, the consortium developed strategies and recommendations for European policies (e.g. food, consumers, research, health, agriculture). The secure handling of food has a main impact on the safety of food products and the European consumers. Furthermore, detailed plans and actions to foster food safety research in Europe were part of the work plan and objectives. The project paved the way for highly innovative research projects in the field of feed and food safety. FOODSEG had the aim to connect research and policy actors in the enlarged European Union and the accession countries, in order to fill transitional gaps and achieve a broader network and deeper collaboration between them.
The participants of the FOODSEG project formed a network that connects most of the on-going but also completed EU-funded projects from Framework Programmes 6 and 7 in the field of food safety and related topics like feed safety, animal health and agriculture along the whole production chain.. All these projects show that FOODSEG involves experts from different stages of the food chain in order to apply and work based on the "farm to fork" approach. The main difference and advantage to other food-related networks in Europe is mainly that the experts involved combine expertise throughout the whole food chain: from production of raw materials (agriculture, farming), animal health (feed safety), food safety and quality, logistics and transport, retail, to consumption.

The FOODSEG objectives were:
• Establishing expert working groups to coordinate research activities, to support policy development at EU level and to identify research agendas for future community research in the field of food safety and quality, along the whole food chain.
• To organise three FOODSEG symposia.
• To integrate experts from new Member States and associated candidate countries.
• To disseminate research results through an online platform and to establish new project consortia for Framework Programme 7 (EU research and development funding programme 2007-2013) and Horizon 2020 (EU research and innovation funding programme 2014-2020)
• To initiate and set-up a researchers exchange programme
FOODSEG also had as an overall goal to overcome the fragmentation of resources and expertise in the activities on food safety in Europe. The coordination of activities within FOODSEG paved the way for better comparison of research data, samples and other relevant information in the fields.

Project Results:
FOODSEG organised three workshops in Plovdiv (Bulgaria, October 20П), Prague (Czech Republic, October 20I2) and Thessaloniki (Greece, October 20I3), and in addition three symposia in Berlin (Germany, June 20I2), Bucharest (Romania, June 20I3) and Novi Sad (Serbia, April 20I4). Besides an overview and presentations on the FOODSEG work plan and objectives by the coordinator, the consortium defined relevant future research topics and policy recommendations. Each defined working group made a detailed report including an analysis of the state-of-the-art and research gaps in their field. Most of the working groups published their work within a review paper. Some of them have already been accepted by relevant journals, others will be submitted in 2014. The relevant publications can be found on the project website or the respective link to the journal. Based on the review results and identified gaps, the working groups already started to define the main future research topics. These topics were summarised and sent to the European Commission in order to give input on new topics for the Horizon 2020 programme. The planned survey was postponed to the second period of the project but attracted about 500 people who completed the online questionnaire. The researchers exchange program was defined in detail and it was agreed that the program should be used as support to the working groups. Junior and senior scientists visited selected organisations involved in the FOODSEG consortium in order to gain insights in innovative methodologies and science but also to discuss topics in detail. The first FOODSEG Symposium in Berlin was a great success with more than 100 participants; the second FOODSEG Symposium attracted more than 100 visitors to Bucharest, Romania. At this symposium, about 10 EU projects disseminated their results via a presentation and poster exhibition. The third FOODSEG Symposium was also successful and attracted more than 110 participants to Novi Sad, Serbia. Eight EU Projects presented their actions and results.
FOODSEG also had the aim to support new FP7 project proposals. About five proposals have been supported where two of them have already been granted EC funding and started in early 2013. Several other bilateral collaborations between the project partners have been initiated and are still
on-going. The FOODSEG network will stay active even after the end of the official funding period and will regularly organise an annual symposium and one workshop. The 2015 FOODSEG Symposium will be held in Rome, Italy.
FOODSEG had its main impact in developing and submitting proposals to FP7 and H2020. Particularly, experts form new Member States Countries and accession countries participated and were prepared for the relevant calls. Also, a reduction of the fragmentation of research in the field of food safety could be reached and relevant research results and know-how have been shared and further developed as topic suggestions for H2020.

During the kick-off meeting in Vienna, Austria, at the beginning of the FOODSEG project, the consortium did a creativity exercise in order to collect relevant important research topics along the production chains. Each participant had to define three ideas which were then categorized by the FOODSEG coordinator. Based on the eleven categories the topics for the 11 working groups have been defined. These topics of the working groups are:
1. Food crisis management
2. Consumer habit and impact on food safety
3. Authenticity
4. By-product and resource management
5. Environmental lifestyle and persistence of food-borne pathogens
6. Using microbial interaction as preventive measure
7. Antibiotics and vet drugs in food production
8. Safety of produce
9. Rapid novel technologies - Standardisation and harmonisation
10. Advanced food technology and preservation
11. Mycotoxins and feed safety

These working groups assessed and reviewed the current state-of-the-art in the respective research area and summarised their efforts into a scientific publication. Based on this assessment the main research gaps were defined, and potential future research topics were formulated and communicated to the European Commission as an input to the new research funding programme of the EU, called Horizon 2020. The following gives an overview of the main results that have been reached within the work in the working groups.
1. Food crisis management
Working group 1 conducted a review and follow up of results from other EU Projects related to food crises management, AniBioThreat, SLAM, Foodrisc and came up with a suggestions to develop a multi-disciplinary toolbox for capacity building measures, early warning and efficient crisis communication. Especially, when looking back in the past, respective food crises were not really communicated and handled in a professional, efficient, or reliable way.
2. Consumer habits and impact on food safety
Working group 2 analysed the domestic kitchen, which is an important point of origin for foodborne diseases. The group members did a survey on the influence of TV cooking shows in handling food in a safe way at home. They came up with a suggestion to improve education measures on consumer habits and behaviour regarding healthy and safe diets.
3. Authenticity
Working group 3 did an analysis on food fraud issues within the food chain. Consumers need to trust what information is given on the food product. The food industry is sometimes too focused on cheap products, which in several cases causes fraud and adulteration. Reliable labelling could help motivate consumers focus more on high quality rather than on low priced food products.
Especially food products like olive oil and fats, tomato sauce, fish and fish products, wine, cereals, honey, beer, organic vs. conventional products, processed meat products, dairy products and bush meat were identified as the most common targets for adulteration. The working group came up with a suggestion to set up a EU / international food fraud alert system and control measures.
4. By-product and resource management
Working group 4 analysed the use of bio-degradable by-products and wastes as animal feed across the EU. EU legislation issues linked to their recycling, use of animal feeds, and feed safety, nutritive characterisation of main by-products and wastes, and their feasibility for use as feedstuffs have been assessed. The working group came up with several suggestions As this field is a rather young research area, it offers a lot of room for potential research topics. One main issue is to develop bio-degradable products on a competitive (cost-efficient) basis compared to conventional products which is currently difficult to reach.
5. Environmental lifestyle and persistence of food borne pathogens

Working group 5 analysed factors involved in the persistence of foodborne pathogens in selected food chains, covering aspects related to the consequences of persistence and its impact on food safety and the strategies that need to be employed to combat persistence. The working group came up with the suggestion to develop and implement new technologies for a more fast and precise monitoring and characterisation of pathogens and their problems for human health.
6. Using microbial interaction as a preventive measure
Working group 6 did an analysis on microbial interactions and microbial products that inhibit the growth of food pathogens and have the potential to reduce contamination risks significantly. They came up with several suggestions on biological control mechanisms and measures in animals and in the food processing industry in order to avoid problems with micro-organisms like Salmonella, Listeria, etc.
7. Antimicrobial resistance and vet drugs
Working group 7 did an analysis on the current situation and possible countermeasures of antimicrobial resistance in European food and animals, with a main emphasis on Campylobacter spp. and Salmonella spp bacterial strains. They came up with a suggestion to harmonise the monitoring and surveillance systems in Europe to be able to compare data sets and risk analysis as well as to develop alternatives for a replacement of antibiotics.
8. Safety of produce
Working group 8 analysed fresh fruits and vegetables - which are a source of numerous nutrients and are generally regarded as essential components of a healthy diet - and their related biological and environmental contaminants. They came up with a suggestion to define control points and strategies to reduce biological contamination during the primary production and handling of fresh produce.
9. Rapid novel technologies - Standardisation and harmonisation
Working group 9 did an analysis on novel, rapid and reliable technologies and methodologies in food control. Novel test systems are faster, more sensitive and reliable in order to reduce the risks of carry-over contaminations. They came up with suggestions on standardisation and validation of the relevant methodology protocols and on new technologies.
10. Advanced food technology and preservation
Working group 10 analysed high pressure processing in production of meat and meat-like products. They came up with a suggestion on nutritional functionalisation of high pressure processing products as well as defining the impact on meat constituents and preservation.
11. Mycotoxin and feed safety
Working group 11 did an analysis on the evaluation of occurrence, exposure and toxicity of masked mycotoxins for a proper risk assessment. They came up with suggestions to better understand these mycotoxins and their influence on grains as well as their effects on farm animals.
Based on the work within the working groups and inputs from external experts as well as the results of the FOODSEG survey, relevant policy recommendations have been defined and communicated by the FOODSEG partners. One main recommendation was to better harmonise and exchange know-how in regulatory and policy issues between the countries in Europe and worldwide. Food products are transported all over the world and have therefore not only a specific regional but also an international impact. Relevant food crises are not limited to certain regions but are increasingly becoming a worldwide problem. Therefore, common rules and tools are needed and have to be defined together. This includes common crisis management and communication, common standards in food control, common databases to exchange information on food quality and safety and common approaches in sampling, planning, or handling of food at home. There are also difficulties for farmers to implement current regulations, as during their development the needs of especially small farms have not always been taken into account. Therefore, projects like FOODSEG are of high relevance when bringing together different kinds of stakeholders, ranging from farmers, policy makers, control experts, scientists, industry representatives to consumers, whereas other networks focus on specific groups of stakeholders and limit exchange between the groups. EU laws are often too general without considering country-specific needs and facts, and therefore, the relevant implementation of these laws is difficult.

Potential Impact:
FOODSEG uses several tools to initiate collaboration and projects where all kinds of stakeholders should take part. Besides the public website, FOODSEG set up specific websites for each symposium and keeps them online. The idea is that people who are interested can take a look at the different profiles of each of the participants and can directly get into contact with the relevant expert(s) via email or even telephone. More than 200 experts are listed in the websites of the three symposia and are open for further collaborations or discussions on project ideas. In addition, FOODSEG set up a project and best practice database. This database includes all relevant EU funded projects on topics related to the full food and feed chain. Currently, 158 projects and organisations are listed in the database. By the end of 2014, about 400 projects and organisations will be listed in this database. The database is relevant for those looking for projects or partners for cooperative research, development or an innovation project.
Within the symposia and workshops research was coordinated and planned for the future. It enabled researchers from all regions in Europe to get access to knowledge, technology and best practise available in Europe. The promotion of S&T activities established a good basis for working partnerships in the context of food policy and research. The main impact of FOODSEG is that a network has been established that integrates experts coming from each topic along the whole agricultural, feed and food chain, even integrating experts on the consumer side. This is unique and shows that there is a need to better cooperate and exchange knowledge in the future in order to guarantee food safety. Therefore, the FOODSEG working groups developed relevant future research topics based on the identified gaps in research. Furthermore, these activities supported the establishment of new project consortia and research projects. FOODSEG also had a large and positive impact on the whole of the European continent, as experts from the new member states as well as accession countries were integrated and took part in the FOODSEG events. It showed that in these countries there are a lot of talented young researchers but also very experienced researchers in the field of food safety. FOODSEG helped to initiate collaborations and common research projects. Policy recommendations have been established and exchanged with the relevant policy makers and decision makers in the respective countries. Some of the FOODSEG experts are even represented in EFSA panels and therefore had the chance to disseminate FOODSEG results at EFSA. The impact on social issues is relatively difficult to assess as this project focused on research coordination and dissemination. But as the FOODSEG coordinator is also the coordinator of the BIOPROM project, it was possible to bring FOODSEG issues into another dissemination project in order to promote food safety research. BIOPROM produced an interactive travelling exhibition and focused on the promotion of the bio-economy to the general public, including pupils, families and students. Within this exhibition one part dealt also with food issues. There, FOODSEG was able to bring in expertise when defining the content of the exhibition and therefore also had an impact on social issues as well as on the general public. The FOODSEG consortium also organised several dissemination and proposal workshops in Hungary, Germany, Vietnam, Italy and Austria just to name a few. Each of the project partners has also been very active in promoting FOODSEG via their regional and international events, conferences and workshops.

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Mr. Andreas Moser
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