International Training Program “evidence-based decision making in food safety” (recalled “ITP food safety”)Ongoing
The proposal of “Evidence-Based Decision Making in Food Safety” (in short “ITP Food safety”) is the continuation of the experience build with the ITP “Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Risk Assessment”. The new proposal emerged from the needs to focus on the actual decision making process to manage food safety issues in developing countries. The revised ITP Food Safety introduces and strengthens the concept of ‘evidence-based decision making’. This concept is relatively new in food safety, but widely applied e.g. in public health management decisions. Evidence-based decision making can be defined as ‘a process for making decisions about a program, practice, or policy that is grounded in the best available research evidence and informed by experiential evidence from the field and relevant contextual evidence’ (https://www.cebma.org/wp-content/uploads/Evidence-Based-Practice-The-Basic-Principles.pdf (fig. 1).
Best available research evidence ==> Contextual evidence ==> Experimental evidence
Figure 1. The elements of evidence-based decision making (after Porzsolt et al., 2003)
Food security and sustainable food chains are being aimed for globally, however, in countries in the South, challenges are considerably bigger due to multiple reasons such as non-optimised food production systems, logistic restrictions, challenging climatic conditions, etc. Over the past decades, education and research in the South was mainly focused on the need to produce enough (nutritious) foods resulting in a significant improvement in the local capacity with respect to primary production, post-harvest and food processing technology. However, when a food chain is being established, food safety problems tend to occur during (prolonged) storage of foods, dislocation between site of production and consumption and/or post-contamination in multiple steps of food handling. Moreover, food safety requirements for export oriented chains were extended to the domestic food chains. In combination with the growing representation of developing countries in international organisations such as Codex Alimentarius (WHO/FAO) or in the recently created ARAC (Asian Risk Assessment Centre, http://www.arac-asean.org/), human capacity building is further needed in evidence-based decision making as comprehensive approach including a qualitative or quantitative risk assessment to prioritize and support the selection of suitable mitigation strategies to improve food safety and thus also food security and food sustainability.
Elements present in evidence-based decision making (see fig. 1) are a) best available research evidence is to seek out available scientific insights and knowledge, followed by b) collecting information on the context or factors important to understand the local context for the decision making and finally c) feed with knowledge and experiences from stakeholders. Characteristics of the decision-making process are transparency, participation, openness, skilled leadership and according to a defined process. Thus, the ITP “Evidence-Based Decision Making in Food Safety” is a new program built on the experience and developed capacity of the former ITP “Food safety (FS), Quality Assurance (QA) and Risk Analysis (RA)”, which ran at UGent from 2009 till 2017. The revised ITP Food Safety program anticipates to and considers the evolution in developing and emerging countries over the last decade such as higher capacity available in multiple countries due to increasing investment in local bachelor or master programs, a broad alumni network of about 120 ITP trainees in FS, QA & RA, a network of former PhD students in the area of food science and food safety and an even broader network of UGent graduates from the VLIR UOS master programs in Food Technology and Human Nutrition (ICPs). In addition, economic growth in countries in the South and the increased awareness of the importance of food safety has initiated the creation of local risk assessment and management authorities, such bureaus of standards, ministries of agriculture or public health, food safety authorities, and cross-country organisations such as ARAC in Asia (Asian Risk Assessment Centre, http://www.arac-asean.org/ in where several of our ITP FS, QA & RA alumni are represented. In these type of organisations, risk management and mitigation strategies such as installing risk based monitoring plans, risk assessment calculations with scenario analysis to evaluate potential mitigation options, setting legal criteria based on scientific advice are being elaborated, based on international guidelines as set by Codex Alimentarius or other international organisations such as ICMSF for microbiological hazards (http://www.icmsf.org/). Additional capacity building in this area is absolutely necessary, considering in particular the fact that the options taken should be tailored towards the local situation and circumstances.
The “ITP Evidence-Based Decision Making in Food Safety” envisages this process of setting tailored and efficient management and mitigation strategies, adapted to the local situation but based on scientific knowledge and international agreements. Thus, compared to the previous ITP FS, QA & RA, considerable changes are introduced: (1) more ‘senior’ participants are aimed for, with responsibility in decision-making processes in food safety in their countries, (2) participants will be personally coached in their case studies by a local buddy to strengthen the local network and to prepare the case study in risk profiling, (3) a more comprehensive and shorter stay in Ghent is foreseen to allow senior participants to travel to Ghent, and (4) prof. P. Spanoghe is introduced as co-promotor of the program, in view of his expertise with respect to pesticide residues and the particular relevance of this area in food safety issues in the South, as revealed in the ITP FS, QA & RA programs.
International Training Programme
15/10/2018 - 14/12/2018