Advancing engagement in an evolving food safety ecosystem: opportunities and challenges
The European food safety ecosystem is a community of diverse actors – part of a wider, global ecosystem – which creates and captures new value through both collaboration and competition. At the same time, the ecosystem evolves by way of knowledge sharing and innovation. Therefore, investments made in partnerships and cooperation in the said ecosystem are set to result in further economies of scale and more capacity to deliver on even the most complex regulatory science. The increase in scientific complexity, changing societal expectations, new policy and strategy initiatives, and new market trends create opportunities but also pose new challenges to the food safety ecosystem. These challenges trigger the need to rethink how the actors within the ecosystem can continue to ensure safe and healthy food and feed, and thereby also contribute to sustainable food systems and One Health goals. The Transparency Regulation has set up a new legal framework enhancing openness and transparency throughout the risk assessment process. It also provides the means for more comprehensive and timely scientific advice through collaboration and cooperation. This session will explore how each actor can help to address the outlined challenges to reach the overarching food and feed safety goals of the ecosystem, taking into account individual values, needs and possible limitations, and how the ecosystem approach can directly impact on the quality of regulatory science. We will also explore new ways of engagement, cooperation, and collaboration among the ecosystem actors, and how they can contribute to more fit-for-purpose and trusted food and feed safety advice.
To reach the One Health objectives, it is crucial that the different actors involved in trying to achieve an optimal one health outcome collaborate with each other, recognising the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and their shared environment. The European food safety ecosystem is a small player in meeting the overarching one health goals but can play a key role in applying the one health principles when providing integrated food and feed safety advice. By addressing the challenges of increasing scientific complexity, changing societal expectations, new policy and strategy initiatives and new market trends in an integrated manner, ecosystem actors will not only ensure a fit-for-purpose and trustworthy food and feed safety outcome but also live up to one health principles. The vision of an ideal European food/feed safety ecosystem would be that all actors in this ecosystem understand and accept the ecosystem goal(s) and contribute to them by engaging/collaborating/cooperating with each other. With that in mind, all actors should understand the opportunities offered by the ecosystem and explore possibilities to go beyond conventional boundaries.
Background – Challenges and opportunities
“Business ecosystems are dynamic and co-evolving communities of diverse actors who create and capture new value through both collaboration and competition” ("Business ecosystems come of age", Deloitte University Press, 2015). The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is an integral part of the EU’s food safety ecosystem and contributes by providing scientific advice to support the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States on areas related to food/feed safety and the environment.
Over the past years, some of the basic building blocks of that food safety ecosystem have evolved and novel issues have emerged that might make us reconsider how different actors within this ecosystem engage, collaborate, and cooperate. Five main drivers for change have been identified:
- Increasing scientific complexity due to the growing volume of evidence, evolving methodologies, the consideration of new endpoints, and the implementation of cross-domain approaches.
- Increasing societal expectations due to the need for more openness and transparency and a desire to participate in a more holistic and sustainable food safety approach.
- Erosion of trust within the food safety ecosystem due to mis/disinformation, insufficient, fragmented or incoherent communication and misperception.
- New market trends including new technologies, mobility of goods and hazards and globalisation of trade.
- New policy and strategy initiatives coming from the European Union policy makers (e.g. Green Deal), as well as relevant global policy approaches.
To realise the opportunities and address the challenges that that stem from these drivers of change and to ensure EFSA’s continued preparedness to provide high-quality and timely scientific outputs, engagement and collaboration of all actors of the food safety ecosystem is key.
With the implementation of the Transparency Regulation, a new legal framework has been created that brings increased openness throughout the risk assessment process. It has also provided the necessary resources for increasing the efficacy and comprehensiveness of EFSA’s scientific advice related to new food and feed products and the environment. It offers the opportunity to further engagement with ecosystem actors and identify ways of sustainable collaboration that add tangible value to the risk assessment system and its participants/beneficiaries.
Scope and objectives
The thematic session aims to bring the different ecosystem actors together to discuss new ways of engaging, collaborating and cooperating and respond to the key challenges of increasing scientific complexity, societal expectations, erosion in trust and new market-stemming needs that relate to food safety.
Specific objectives are:
- Setting the scene with examples of good cooperation/collaboration and what benefits and challenges cooperation entails.
- Better understanding the values and needs of the different actors within that ecosystem, and what the limits are for each of them to be able to contribute to and benefit from the ecosystem.
- Better understanding how the actors of the ecosystem can help each other to address these challenges and how more engagement, better collaboration and cooperation between the actors can contribute to a more fit-for-purpose and trustworthy food safety outcome.
- Better understanding the obstacles that prevent closer and more organic collaboration to be realized.
- Starting to explore solutions to remove or circumvent the identified blockers.
- Inspiring participants to be part of the further shaping of the collaborative ecosystem.
Part I | Why an ecosystem approach?
Forest ecosystems – what can they teach us on collaboration?
Georg Winkel, Wageningen University and Research
The ecosystem approach - a way forward for value co-creation in the face of growing complexity
Gerda Verburg, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement
The EU Bee Partnership - a successful multi-stakeholder partnership
Noa Simon Delso, BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination
Part II | Audience interaction and spot interviews
Ecosystems from a digital perspective
Paul Amedeo Devalier, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
Perspectives from a National Risk Assessment Agency
Harald Gjein, Norwegian Scientific Committee for food and environment (VKM)
Engagement in the ecosystem from a research perspective
Sarah A Hartley, University of Exeter
Part III | Food for thoughts
Part IV | Reacting to food for thoughts
Georg Winkel, Wageningen University and Research | Gerda Verburg, Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement | Noa Simon Delso, BeeLife European Beekeeping Coordination | Sarah A Hartley, University of Exeter | Harald Gjein, Norwegian Scientific Committee for food and environment (VKM) | Paul Amedeo Devalier, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)
Part V | And next…