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The Barometers of the Safety of the Food Chain : Introduction



 
 
Why developing barometers for the safety of the food chain ?
How to read the barometers ?
Measuring the safety of the food chain: the pressure-state-response model
More information





Why developing barometers for the safety of the food chain ?

  Over the last decade radical changes have taken place regarding the management of the safety of the food chain, both on a European and on a national level (e.g. the General Food Law, the foundation of the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC) and of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), implementation of self-checking systems).

These changes required great efforts from all stakeholders of the food chain, including the agricultural and food industry, farmers and the government. In order to evaluate the results of these efforts and to get an overall view of the safety of the food chain, the Scientific Committee of the FASFC developed a concept for measuring the safety of the whole food chain (from farm to fork) (SciCom Advice 28-2010 + annexes; SciCom Advice 09-2011 + annexes; SciCom Advice 10-2011 + annexes). The safety of food (food safety) as well as animal health and plant health, are thus considered. The barometers of the safety of the food chain consist accordingly of the “food safety” barometer, the barometer for “animal health” and the barometer for “plant health”.

While several barometers to measure e.g. the quality of the environment, poverty and traffic –jams were already in place, a barometer for the safety of the food chain had yet to be developed. This barometer, which was first published in 2010, is the first of its kind in Europe.

The barometers are meant to be a practical measuring instrument that allows to monitor annually food safety in a simple way and to communicate in clear terms on this subject.


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How to read the barometers ?

  The barometers should be interpreted with caution since the value of each individual barometer is the result of fluctuations of the determined indicators. Hence, the importance of the barometer should be considered over a longer period of time when it will reveal the general trend of food safety in our country. The barometers are a simple means of communication for reflecting the state of a particularly complex situation.


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Measuring the safety of the food chain: the pressure-state-response model

  The measuring and monitoring of the safety of the food chain is based on the 'Pressure-State-Response' (PSR) model developed for the environmental sector by the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development). Applied to the food chain, following definitions were used :
  1. ‘Pressure’ : the ‘pressure’ exerted on the food chain that may possibly give rise to new hazards and/or risks,
  2. ‘State’ : the present ‘situation’ of the safety of the food chain that is reflected by the barometer, and
  3. ‘Response’ : the ‘reaction’ or the preventive or corrective actions that may be taken in order to guarantee the safety of the food chain in an even better way.


 



In other words, the ‘Pressure’ and the ‘Response’ constitute the framework of the barometers and define the context within which the barometers should be interpreted.

The ‘Pressure’, i.e. the pressure exerted on the food chain, is exerted on several levels. Social-economic, technological and ambient factors as well as environment and international requirements may have an effect on the safety of the food chain. An inquiry among the different stakeholders showed that financial and economic pressure are important influences, and that climate change and technological developments seem to be less important.

The ‘Response’, or reaction refers to the policy-level and social decisions and options made or actions taken in order to limit, adjust or prevent negative trends occurring in the field of food chain safety. The ‘Response’ is harder to circumscribe than the ‘Pressure’ and mostly depends on the line of approach. Hence preventive and corrective actions may be taken on a policy-level as well as by the industry or by consumers (e.g. new rules and legislation, quality labels, technical/technological adjustments, etc.).

As for the ‘State’, the barometer is seen as an instrument that reflects the safety situation of the entire food chain, i.e. from farm to fork. In addition to food safety, plant health and animal health should thus also be taken into account. These 3 fields requiring different approaches and not necessarily being directly interrelated, it was decided to develop a separate barometer for each of them.


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More information

 

Advice 28-2010 of the Scientific Committee explains the concept underlying the development of the barometer of the safety of the food chain.

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.

Advice 11-2012 of the Scientific Committee describes the weight factors of the indicators used in the food safety, animal health and plant health (phytosanitary situation) barometers.


Measuring Food Safety - Development of a tool for a general measure for food safety (PDF) : Presentation given at the International symposium ‘Measuring foodsafety and comparing self checking systems’ (17 November 2010).

Measuring the safety of the food chain in Belgium: development of a barometer : publication 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 Baert K., Van Huffel X., Jacxsens L., Berkvens D., Diricks H., Huyghebaert A., Uyttendaele M., Food Research International, August 2012, 48:1, 257-264.

Measuring the general phytosanitary situation: development of a plant health barometer: publication Wilmart O., Van Huffel X., Diricks H., Huyshauwer V., Michelante D., Bragard C., Schiffers B., Pussemier L., Berkvens D., Höfte M., Uyttendaele M., European Journal of Plant Pathology, 2015, 141(2):349–360.

Measuring general animal health status: Development of an animal health barometer: publication Depoorter P., Van Huffel X., Diricks H., Imberechs H., Dewulf J., Berkvens D., Uyttendaele M., Preventive Veterinary Medicine, 2015, 118(4): 341-350.

Our mission is to preserve the safety and the quality of our food in order to protect humans, animals and plants.

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