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Skip to 0 minutes and 1 second RASFF represents the European Union’s integrated approach to food safety. The system has been in existence for 35 years and has developed in membership, scope, and methods of communication over the years. RASFF was established in 1979 and has developed as a tool to rapidly exchange information on direct and indirect risks detected within the food and feed chain over the intervening years. The primary focus of RASFF is the safety of food and feed. All four types of food hazard - chemical, biological, physical, and allergens - are covered by RASFF notifications.

Skip to 0 minutes and 42 seconds Some notable dates in relation to biological hazards communicated within the RASFF system include the BSE crisis in 1995, contaminated pistachio nuts from Iran in 1998, toxic dog food from the USA in 2006, and e-coli in sprouts in 2011. In 2014, there has been an outbreak of salmonella linked to imported eggs produced in southern Germany. This outbreak has affected individuals in several EU states. There are three different types of RASFF notification - alert notifications, information notifications, and border rejection notifications. Alert notifications - these are sent when a food or feed presenting the risk is on the market and when rapid action is required.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds Information notifications - these concern a food or feed for which a risk has been identified but for which the other members of the network do not have to take rapid action because the product has not reached their market. Border rejection notifications - this is a notification concerning a consignment of food, feed, or food contact material that was refused entry into the community. RASFF notifications are constantly being added to and updated 24 hours a day, seven days per week. The RASFF flow diagram demonstrates how detection and notification is managed at border controls and highlights the flow of information between RASFF member countries.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds When a RASFF member country detects a food safety risk, it must immediately inform the European Commission using the RASFF system. European Commission then disseminates the notification to other members to enable them to take appropriate actions, which may include withdrawing or recalling the product from the market. Border rejections are transmitted to all border posts to ensure that the rejected product is not able to enter the EU by another border post. An infographic from the RASFF’s website summarises the main points from the 2013 annual report. The report shows that there were 3,137 notifications transmitted via the RASFF system during 2013, which was a reduction in 9% from 2012.

Skip to 3 minutes and 15 seconds The highest number of notifications by product category were associated with fruit and vegetables with 642 notifications. Although this was also an 11% reduction from 2012. There were substantially higher numbers of notifications for three product categories compared to 2012. Meat and meat products were up 35%. Poultry and poultry products were up 83%. And shellfish were up 130%.

Skip to 3 minutes and 46 seconds The biggest hazard category in 2013 was pathogenic microorganisms with 774 notifications. Salmonella was once again the top pathogen causing notifications. The information in the RASFF system may be used by a range of regulatory bodies and related food industries. Examples include the European Commission; food safety agencies in member countries, for example, the UK Food Standards Agency and its equivalent in other EU countries; food and feed control authorities in member countries; food ingredient importers; and food company personnel.

Skip to 4 minutes and 31 seconds The RASFF data is used in various ways - to highlight the hazards causing most problems, to highlight risky foods, to highlight problem source countries, to track particular pathogens, to monitor trends in occurrence of a particular hazard over time, to assess the safety record of particular food ingredients that food companies may be considering incorporating into new products, or for development or revision of HACCP plans, or to advise non-RASFF member countries that there is a food safety problem with food or feed originating from their jurisdiction. The RASFF website has a live, searchable database that provides information to relevant stakeholders.

Skip to 5 minutes and 18 seconds There’s also a consumer’s portal to allow EU citizens to view the very latest alerts for the current month for their own country by clicking on the relevant flag.

Detection of food hazards

In this presentation we will learn more about an information system within the European Union known as the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) which collects and disseminates information on food hazards as and when they are detected by Member States.

Information in the RASFF system derives from the identification of hazards in the food chain by food testing using appropriate detection methods. To be effective, the RASFF system must be able to make timely and effective alert or information notifications as soon as hazards are detected.

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This video is from the free online course:

Tackling Global Food Safety

Queen's University Belfast