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BfR software FoodChain-Lab enables rapid action in the event of disease outbreaks

19/2024, 07.06.2024

Prepare for the unexpected: World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2024

Every year, one in ten people worldwide falls ill as a result of impurity (contaminated) food. The World Food Safety Day on 7 June 2024 therefore draws attention to the importance of safe food and the challenges that still exist under the motto “Prepare for the unexpected”. Pathogenic microorganisms can enter food in various ways. This makes it all the more important to find the source of the impurity. The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) developed the FoodChain-Lab software for tracing chains of goods back in 2011 during the bacterial EHEC outbreak and has continued to develop it further.  “In the event of a foodborne disease outbreak, the source must be found quickly,” says Professor Andreas Hensel, President of the BfR. “We are therefore pleased that our software is also being used by other international food authorities to solve problems – because food safety is a global challenge.”

FoodChain-Lab is a freely available open-source software for tracing chains of goods. The software makes chains of goods visible and enables interactive analyses. For each product and each Stop along the supply chain, it estimates the probability that they are linked to an outbreak. The programme also simulates the transmission of pathogens (cross contamination) during the production or processing of a product as well as possible geographical connections. Since 2016, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has also been using FoodChain-Lab as an important tool for its own work.

Additionally, the software is an important tool for the US Food Safety Authority (FDA). As part of the cooperation, which has been in place since 2021, training courses and discussion rounds on FoodChain-Lab were held. The FDA also gave several presentations at the international conference on global commodity chains in risk assessment at the BfR from 27 to 29 May 2024.

All abstracts of the presentations from the conference can be found on the BfR Academy website at, where the presentations themselves will also be available shortly.

The theme for this year's World Food Safety Day is “Be prepared for the unexpected”. It emphasises the importance of being prepared for food safety incidents. On the World Health Organisation (WHO) website you can find more information about World Food Safety Day and explanations of this year's motto:

About World Food Safety Day

The United Nations launched World Food Safety Day in 2018 to draw attention to the importance of safe food. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in ten people contract foodborne infections every year. In the worst cases, they can be fatal.

You can find more information about World Food Safety Day here:

Further information on the BfR website on the FoodChain-Lab:

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically inde-pendent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agri-culture (BMEL) in Germany. The BfR advises the Federal Government and the States (‘Laender’) on questions of food, chemicals and product safety. The BfR conducts independent research on topics that are closely linked to its assess-ment tasks.

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


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