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Data collection tool for tracing purposes in the context of urgent scientific advice (DataColl)


Funding programme / funding institution: Europäische Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit (EFSA) - Italien

Grant number: GP/EFSA/AMU/2020/02

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Project description:

In times of accelerated food and feed trade and complex, globalised supply chains there is a strong need for efficient tracing strategies including effective communication, data assessment and data exchange strategies as well as powerful tracing tools that are able to interoperate. Despite recent large food crises, those necessities are not fully in place yet. In general, harmonised data structures, digital data collection and, if possible, the use of interfaces to data systems are required to allow for a faster tracing data exchange. As thorough tracing requires accurate and detailed datasets, digital structured data assessment tools including data validation are desirable as well. The AMU28 DataColl project will therefore focus on developing a tracing data collection workflow and a Universal Traceability data eXchange format (UTX) to facilitate interoperability between already existing national and European tracing tools and thereby use the synergies between several national and international projects. Those tracing tools all have varying purposes. A comprehensive EFSA tool provides a guided and structured data extraction from unstructured RASFF notifications. BfR will support EFSA in the re-implementation of this tool. In addition, a further improved version of the Rapid Alert Supply Network Extractor (RASNEX) tool, recently developed by BfR, complements the EFSA tool by automatically extracting relevant tracing information beforehand from RASFF notifications using pattern recognition. Here, artificial intelligence may help improving automatised data extraction and data collection in the future. To collect data on the local level, a web-based data entry mask for local food safety officers with on-site plausibility checks and access to curated data via catalogues was developed by the German Federal State NRW together with BfR, EFSA and BVL. The mask is designed to facilitate a multi-language use so all MS could benefit from this development. Furthermore, secure event-driven interfaces to industry databases are envisioned to facilitate mass data transmission. Finally, FoodChain-Lab (FCL) can be used to visualise and analyse tracing data collected by the before mentioned tools. With this, FCL helps to prioritise next investigation steps to find the cause of foodborne events. In addition, FCL provides a reporting module to create a visual output that can directly be integrated into reports such as EFSA Rapid Outbreak Assessments. All tracing tools mentioned will be open-source and/or free to use for authorities on the local, national and European level. The UTX format serving as an interface between the tracing tools allows for complementing their advantages to provide flexible comprehensive solutions for any tracing setting. If more tracing tools exist on MS level, they can make use of the possibilities that are offered by the described tracing tool landscape via the UTX format as well. UTX data files can also be uploaded to the RASFF system to share data and prevent double work for the MS with regard to the laborious and time consuming manual data extraction from RASFF notifications in times of crises. All in all, it is expected that this development will step by step improve the quality and completeness of tracing data transmitted via the RASFF system.


The main purpose of the project is the definition of a decentralized data collection workflow for tracing information in the context of urgent scientific advice. In parallel the corresponding software tools will be developed within the EFSA R4EU project.

  • To guarantee a high level of applicability and user-friendliness the project partner will use the experiences of the FoodChain-Lab support team during foodborne incidents from the past (e.g. from the former contract EFSA GP/EFSA/AMU/2016/01) and the coming years (WP 1). During coaching and training of MS on tracing the project partner gained insight in the procedures and needs of competent authorities in the MS.
  • The first step of the project is the definition and documentation of a “Universal Traceability data eXchange” (UTX) format (WP 2), which should enable all actors of a decentralized tracing investigation to exchange their results. Characteristics of the format are: the well-defined data structure (as .xml/.json file), the combination of different aspects of tracing in a hierarchical structure (e.g. actions, status, information, cp. with the results of EFSAs DEMOS project), the existing data collection standards (e.g. EFSAs Distiller project, BfR Input masks and templates), the results of FCL analysis, the openness for additional tables (e.g. sample information), and the storage of an appropriate versioning.
  • The following work package will accompany the transfer of existing data input structures (WP 3) from Distiller SR into the R4EU system by providing input to the workplan, as description of the UTX format, existing data input masks, test datasets, and active involvement in the review of results. The R4EU project will provide the beta-version of the data collection tool.
  • By involving a network of tracing specialists and users of FoodChain-Lab further supporting features of the data collection tool will be defined (WP 4), such as the integration of external data (e.g. list of addresses etc.), information from existing registers or classification schemes, and geo-coding. Especially criteria for consistency check (data validation) and merging of conflicting/complementary information (data cleaning rules) will be defined to allow the combination of results from multiple data collections.
  • Finally a decentralized tracing workflow (WP 5) from data collection, merging, analysis, and reporting will be described and tested. Necessary adjustments to the data collection tool and/or FoodChain-Lab will be defined, implemented in FCL, and documented in a data collection manual.
  • At the end of this project the full decentralized tracing workflow will be presented, discussed and reviewed (WP 6) during a workshop with possible users from the member states.

Project partners

  • Europäische Behörde für Lebensmittelsicherheit (EFSA) - Italien


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