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When the crisis hits: International crisis practice helps prepare for an emergency scenario

34/2019, 29.08.2019

BfR, BVL and EFSA organise practice for the transnational management of food crises

Global supply chains do not stop at national borders. For example, eggs contaminated with the insecticide Fipronil reached Europe and Asia in 2017. EHEC pathogens in food resulted in illness and deaths in several EU countries in 2011. "Free movement of goods in Europe and increasing imports from third world countries have created new food safety challenges," said the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) President, Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. "Crisis practice should promote networking and improve international cooperation." On behalf of and in cooperation with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the BfR, supported by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), is organising an international crisis practice from 28 until 30 August 2019 at the BfR.

At the event from 28 to 30 August 2019 at the BfR, experts from the fields of science and communication on risk assessment and risk management will advise how existing networks in the EU can be further developed. The participating countries are Belgium, Germany, France, Luxemburg and the Netherlands, supported by the EFSA. For example, Germany is represented by the BfR, the BVL and the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL). Using the example of a chemical contaminant in the food chain, during the crisis exercise, elements of crisis management are practiced in a realistic way in the event of an emergency and, in particular, transnational cooperation is more closely interlinked and therefore improved.

The event is part of a larger collection of measures that EFSA has summarised under the heading "Risk assessment tools for the safety of global food and feed supply chains". The crisis practice aims to strengthen transnational networks for early risk detection, crisis prevention and communication in times of crisis.

The first day of the event will focus on the scientific exchange of tools for risk assessment support and risk management in crisis and incidents. Furthermore, representatives of the participating countries will provide insights into regional procedures and structures for crisis management.

The crisis practice is the focus of the second day. Based on a previously developed realistic scenario, the participants will rehearse managing a transnational food crisis. Existing procedures and processes of the different countries are examined together. Interdisciplinary teams develop appropriate measures to solve the crisis and coordinate these in close cooperation with the international partners. For this, the areas of risk assessment and crisis management as well as risk and crisis communication are considered. The formulation of key messages and strategies for the communication of uncertainties are particularly challenging, all of which is under the exercise's simulated, increased public attention as well as classic and social media.

On the third day of the event, the gained experience, results and future implementation options will be discussed. In in-depth workshops, they will rehearse the use of different tools and the adequate handling of media in the event of a crisis.

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. 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.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.

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