The food safety barometer has been introduced for the first time at the occasion of an international symposium "Measuring Food Safety and comparing self checking systems" organized by the Belgian Food Safety Agency in Brussels on November 17th, 2010.
The barometer indicates that the food safety in Belgium is improving: + 0.1 % between 2007 and 2008, + 11.3 % between 2008 and 2009, + 3.7 % between 2009 and 2010, and + 1.3 % between 2010 and 2011.
What is a food safety barometer ?
The food safety barometer is an instrument, developed by the Scientific Committee of the Belgian Food Safety Agency, allowing to provide on a yearly basis a general image of the food safety state in Belgium and this compared to the situation of a previous year. It is a unique measuring instrument to determine and to monitor the global food safety in Belgium and it is a scoop for Europe.
What does the food safety barometer measure ?
The food safety barometer measures the evolution of the yearly global food safety state in Belgium and this mainly based on the results of the control activities of the Agency.
What are the components of a food safety barometer ?
The food safety barometer consists of a set of 30 food safety indicators comprehending the entire food chain: from supplier to consumer. Product controls (on the presence of chemical and biological hazards) as well as process controls (inspections and audits) are part of the set. The preventive approach (self control, mandatory notification, traceability) as well as public health are taken into account in the barometer.
Does each food safety indicator have an equal impact on the global value of the barometer?
The indicators have being weighed by different stakeholders and experts in the food chain. They evaluated the relative importance of individual indicators in the barometer. Indicators in regard to inspections in the food chain were higher scored than indicators related to, for instance, Salmonella in pigs or poultry.
Can the barometer give an indication about the level of food safety in Belgium ?
From the visual representation of the barometer it cannot immediately be read at what absolute level the state of food safety is in Belgium. However, the underlying results give an indication that a significant number of indicators reach very high levels of conformity (> 95% conformity). This signifies that food safety in Belgium is at a high level.
Why does the barometer only show results from 2007 onward ?
It appeared to be very difficult to retrieve reliable historical data for all food safety indicators. The planned and risk-based control of the food chain and the systematic data collection and reporting is an activity which has only been introduced by the Agency during the last years. Going further back in time gives only data on a too small number of indicators.
Why is the result of the barometer expressed as a comparison of the state of a previous year ?
Food safety means the absence of biological, chemical or physical hazards in foodstuffs. During normal circumstances of processing and consumption these foodstuffs are thus safe. It is difficult to express the height of this safety level in absolute terms. This depends upon the standards or action limits used by the policy managers. These standards may evolve with time. Hence, it was chosen for the presentation of the barometer to make always a comparison with a previous year .
Where can more information on the development of the barometer be found ?
In Advice 28-2010 of the Scientific Committee the concept of the development of a barometer of the safety of the food chain is explained.
In Advice 11-2012 of the Scientific Committee the weight factors of the indicators used in the food safety, animal health and plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometers are described.
At the occasion of the International symposium ‘Measuring Food Safety and comparing self checking systems’ (17th November 2010) a presentation was given concerning measuring food safety (PDF)
Measuring the safety of the food chain in Belgium: development of a barometer : publication of Baert K., Van Huffel X., Wilmart O., Jacxsens L., Berkvens D., Diricks H., Huyghebaert A., Uyttendaele M., Food Research International, May 2011, 44:4, 940-950.
Measuring the perceived pressure and stakeholders' response that may impact the status of the safety of the food chain in Belgium : publication of Baert K., Van Huffel X., Jacxsens L., Berkvens D., Diricks H., Huyghebaert A., Uyttendaele M., Food Research International, August 2012, 48:1, 257-264.
Is it possible to measure other safety aspects in the food chain ?
Next to food safety a barometer for animal health and plant health were developed.
Advice 09-2011 of the Scientific Committee explains the concept underlying the development of the animal health barometer.
Advice 10-2011 of the Scientific Committee explains the concept underlying the development of the plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometer.
Is there a relationship between the Belgian food safety barometer and the Eurobarometer for food-related risks ?
There is no direct relationship between the Belgian food safety barometer and the Eurobarometer for food-related risks.
The Eurobarometer (PDF) informs about the perception of the European consumer on food and food-related risks and its confidence in information sources in regard to safe food and the way to avoid exposure to risks in foodstuffs. The survey gives evidence that 56% of the Belgian consumers agree with the idea that today food is safer then 10 years ago.