EHEC and other crises know no boundaries
The EHEC outbreak 2011 resulted in over 50 deaths and was one of the most severe food-borne crises in Europe for a long time. Incidents like these can reoccur at any time. How can crises be overcome? What can be done to prevent them? What lessons are learned by government and society from crises in the past, and what form and shape should cooperation at the various government and supranational levels take? These questions are discussed by representatives from the worlds of politics, economy, science, public institutions as well as other stakeholders at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin-Marienfelde on 13 and 14 September 2012. “The EHEC outbreak clearly showed that crises do not stop at borders”, says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR. “All those involved must effectively cooperate at the international level and they must be willing to constantly learn from the crisis.” The BfR is organising the symposium “Handling and Prevention of Crises” together with the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES) and the National Food Institute of the Danish Technical University.
Despite the fact that food safety standards are very high in Europe, those responsible must always be prepared for possible incidents. There is a wide variety of different triggers for crises. Only through the coordinated efforts of all involved parties is it possible to avoid crises and / or to ensure their adequate and quick management.
A number of stakeholders are involved in this internationally oriented event which the BfR is organising with its French counterpart ANSES and the National Food Institute of the Danish Technical University. On the two event days, experts from Germany, other European countries, the European Union and the World Health Organisation WHO will grapple with the following questions: responsibilities in times of national and international food crises; the role of governments and other institutions; institutional and scientific cooperation in times of crisis; and instruments of crisis management and crisis prevention in the food industry. Thus the different perspectives from politics, business, public institutions and science in the event of a crisis are all represented and discussed. On the second day, representatives of the civil society and other stakeholders will discuss the possibilities of crisis prevention and institutional cooperation. As part of these discussions, they will exchange ideas on what courses of action are most effective and what preventative measures are acceptable to ensure food safety.
As early as 2010, the BfR, ANSES and the National Food Institute of the Danish Technical University signed a cooperation agreement. The aim of the cooperation between Germany, France and Denmark is to make joint efforts in the area of food safety even better and more effective within the European framework than has been the case up until now. This is a trailblazing approach, because all three institutions have similar responsibilities and because they share comparable structures due to their separation of assessment and management. The focus of the cooperation is the exchange between scientists, scientific opinions and close cooperation in the area of risk communication. The long-term goal is to set up joint risk assessments. It is hoped that this will in turn lead, at the top scientific level, to opinions for which the institutions take joint responsibility. In addition, it allows making use of synergies. This means that the cooperation can lead to further intensification of the cooperation with other EU member states and the European Food Safety Agency.
The symposium also serves as a platform for exchanging notes on emergency planning across Europe. In the year 2007, the BfR was appointed the EFSA Focal Point by the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection. As a result, the BfR is now responsible for the scientific exchange of ideas between the EFSA and the member states.
About 150 participants are expected to attend the conference. The programme and other information can be found under “Events” on the website of the BfR.
About the BfR
The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientific institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (BMELV). It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.