Highlights of Discussion Points : IUFoST Scientific Roundtable on Supporting the Resilience of the Food Production Sector and Limiting Food Supply Disruption During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The current COVID-19 Pandemic has uncovered vulnerabilities in the food / agrifood supply chains, which, if not addressed, may contribute to the global degradation of health and the economy. All partners and stakeholders involved in the food production sector – producers at every supply chain level, food regulators, retailers and consumers – have taken measures to overcome these vulnerabilities, to develop and to apply preventive and mitigation measures to help ensure sufficient food production and supply chains are kept intact.

The International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) partnered with the Food Systems and Nutrition Division, Agri-Business Development Department of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Excellence Platform (PARERA) of Université Laval, Québec, Canada, to organize a round table discussion with the objective to share perspectives of the food production sector and food regulators on the challenges faced, solutions developed and lessons learnt, in various parts of the world, in an effort to prevent the disruption of food production and to contribute in maintaining the safety of products and consumer confidence.

The roundtable gathered food regulators and representatives of the food production sector from Asia, Europe, South America and the Middle East.

The Roundtable was co-chaired by:

Mr. Ali Badarneh, Chief Food Systems and Nutrition Division, Agri-Business Development Department, United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO), and Prof. Samuel Godefroy, Professor Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Policies, Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Excellence Platform (PARERA), Department of Food Sciences, Institute of Nutrition and Functional Food (INAF), Université Laval, Quebec City, QC, Canada.

Panelists included:

  • Ms. Jiang YiFan, Head, Science & Regulatory Affairs, Food Industry Asia, Singapore
  • Dr. Pamela Byrne, Chief Executive officer, Food Safety Authority of Ireland, Republic of Ireland
  • Mr. Sébastien Beaulieu, Vice-President Quality, Leclerc Foods, Québec, Canada
  • Mrs. Joyce Haddad, Director of Preventive Healthcare, Ministry of Public Health, Lebanon
  • Dr. Nuri Gras, CEO, Agencia Chilena para la Inocuidad y Calidad Alimentaria, Chile
  • Ms. Jenna Wijngaarde, Food Safety Advisor, Primary Production Sector, Suriname

Key Highlights of the Roundtable

A number of factors contributed to the ability of the food production sector to cope with the current pandemic:

  • A commitment from partners to address the challenges on their operations and on the overall supply chain in order to maintain the safety and availability of food products.
  • A commitment not to succumb to protectionist instincts but instead to keep the flow of trade in food and agrifood products open and fluid with the conscious intent to maintain affordability of food ingredients across the supply chain.
  • The ability to adapt to constraints of limited transportation and the need to diversify suppliers with the introduction of more local and/or regional providers to prevent and mitigate food shortages while encouraging and supporting the local production sectors minimally affected by the consequences of the pandemic. 
  • The prioritization of food regulatory functions based on risk through the deployment of innovative solutions – such as automatic renewal of regulatory licenses, a stronger reliance on self-audits and assessments – capable of collecting data to substantiate results.
  • Efforts to promote collaboration among partners and between stakeholders with the intention to share and disseminate experiences related to how COVID-19 mitigation measures can be applied and adapted in the context of food production.
  • The importance of communication at every level within a food production operation – from the most senior leadership and beyond – to support coping efforts and the uptake of mitigation measures.
  • Communication was also instrumental between regulators – through existing networks regionally and internationally that were mobilized for this purpose – to coordinate action in risk assessment and to provide concerted guidance to the food production sector, as well as adapt their own food regulatory operations, to the realities of COVID-19.

The pandemic has also highlighted some structural limitations that must be addressed with some level of priority:

  • The limited transportation networks at the local or regional level (for example: intra-Caribbean region) and restricted processing capacity has impeded the ability of agricultural production sectors in countries that were less impacted by the pandemic – such as Suriname – to reach other markets or to extend the shelf life of perishable goods.
  • The inadequate preparedness of some sectors and actors – due to the lack of procedures, protocols or guidance – contributed to their inability to react and adapt swiftly resulting in a detrimental climate of uncertainty for food and agrifood business operations.

While this pandemic is still with us for an unforeseen period, it is important to look beyond and prepare for the period after, by:

  • Undertaking the possible review of food supply chains towards a better redistribution between global and local / regional supply, including all necessary investments to enable adaptation.
  • Investing to address food production sector deficiencies, such as more localized processing operations in order to create better / more opportunities for the primary production sector and to contribute to its resilience.
  • Relying to a greater extent on digitalization and innovative operationalization of functions – such as inspection, audits and assessments – using affordable and accessible remote tools and data-driven-approaches which can be adapted to the needs of smaller operations, including small hold farmers.

Presentation Highlighting the Importance of Collection of Food Consumption Information in Risk-Analysis Driven Food Regulatory Decision

This presentation was given at the annual conference of the Saudi Food and Drug Authority in Riyadh (through Remote participation).

It aims at highlighting the importance of Food Consumption Information in Food Risk Assessment: “What you Consume Influences How You Are Exposed to Food Risks”.

Food consumption data are key to enabling the conduct of risk assessments and several other risk-based interventions in relation with food. In particular, exposure assessments are a required component of food risk assessment. This assessment will be highly dependent on the availability of data characterizing the way individuals, in a given area, consume food products: the type of foods consumed, their composition and condition of preparation, as well as patterns of consumption. While hazards are characterized in the same manner for humans, accounting for the relevant uncertainties associated with vulnerable groups, exposure assessment and therefore risk characterization is population-dependent. Risk assessments developed at the international level or by a reputable risk assessment body, has to be reviewed to gauge the suitability of its conclusions to a given population or geographic area, through the application of the relevant estimation of exposure, using the suitable and corresponding food consumption information. This presentation attempts to highlight the importance of collecting food consumption data as part of investments in promoting risk-based food decision-making.


It will be important to invest in the development of tools accessible to various food competent authorities around the world to collect food consumption data, based on a common approach, and make such tools accessible broadly, to food competent authorities in developing nations.

أكمل اثنى عشر (12) خبيراً من 10 دول عربية الجزء الثاني من برنامج تعزيز الكفاءة الخاص بتقييم مخاطر الأغذية الذي صممته ونفذته المبادرة العربية لسلامة الأغذية لتسهيل التجارة (SAFE).

تم تطوير وتنفيذ هذه المرحلة من التدريب بالتعاون مع الوكالة الفرنسية للأغذية والصحة والسلامة البيئية والمهنية حيث استضافت الوكالة هذا  التدريب في مقرها العام في  فرنسا من 17-21 يونيو 2019 وخصصت أكثر من 10 علماء وخبير لتصميم وتقديم برنامج تدريبي فريد النوع، بالتعاون مع أساتذة جامعة لافال (كيبيك ، كندا). وخبراء المبادرة العربية لسلامة الأغذية و تسهيل التجارة. تم تصميم التدريب في شكل عروض للمفاهيم الرئيسية في تقييم التعرض، وتقييم المخاطر الميكروبيولوجية والكيميائية مع التركيز على المناهج التي من الضروري اتباعها لتطوير مصادر البيانات اللازمة لتقييم المخاطر، مثل إعداد وتنفيذ دراسات النظام الغذائي الشامل ، بالإضافة إلى الاعتماد على الأدوات التي يشيع استخدامها من قبل مقيمي المخاطر ، مثل البرامج المستخدمة في تقييم التعرض

 وهكذا تمكنت شبكة خبراء تقييم المخاطر الغذائية العربية، والتي تضم المجموعة الأولى من متدربي المبادرة العربية لسلامة الاغذية ، من استكمال المعلم الثاني لبرنامج تعزيز الكفاءة ، المخصص لتلبية احتياجات المنطقة العربية ، بقصد التأدية ، على الأقل ، لمجتمع تجارب وخبرات في مجال تقييم مخاطر سلامة الأغذية ، يمكن  الاعتماد على خبراتهم لدعم القرارات التنظيمية لسلامة الغذاء على اسس علمية، وبناء على درجة الخطورة،  ، سواء لإدارة الحوادث او وضع معايير سلامة الغذاء في المنطقة العربية. ومن ثم، ستمكّن هذه الجهود من تحقيق تماسك أقوى في القرارات الغذائية بين الدول العربية وبما يتماشى مع أفضل الممارسات الدولية وكذلك اتفاقية الصحة و الصحة النباتية لمنظمة التجارة العالمية.

ويتواصل برنامج تعزيز الكفاءات  الخاص بتقييم المخاطر في المنطقة العربية ، من خلال فترة تدريب على الإنترنت للأشهر الثلاثة القادمة تليها المرحلة الأخيرة من ورش العمل لتقييم المخاطر التي ستعقد في عمان ، الأردن ، في أكتوبر 2019.

المبادرة العربية لسلامة الأغذية و تسهيل التجارة   هي عبارة عن برنامج تنموي تموله الوكالة السويدية للتعاون الإنمائي الدولي بتنفيذ منظمة الأمم المتحدة للتنمة الصناعية   وبالشراكة مع جامعة الدول العربية  و المنظمة العربية للتنمية الصناعية و التعدين والمنظمة العربية للتنمية الزراعية.

12 experts from 10 Arab countries complete another milestone of the tailored competency enhancement program in food risk assessment designed and implemented by the Arab Food Safety Initiative for Trade Facilitation (SAFE) @arabsafetrade

This phase of the training was developed and carried out in collaboration with the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES). ANSES hosted the training at its Headquarters in Maison-Alfort, France from June 17-21, 2019 and devoted more than 10 scientists and experts to design and deliver a dedicated training program, in collaboration with Laval University (Quebec, QC. Canada) Professors and SAFE experts. The training was designed in the form of presentations of key concepts in exposure assessment, microbiological and chemical risk assessment with an emphasis on approaches to develop data sources in support of risk assessment, such as the set-up and implementation of Total Diet Studies, as well as the reliance on tools commonly used by risk assessors, such as software used in exposure assessment.


The Arab food risk assessors’ network, which includes the first cohort of SAFE trainees has completed the second milestone of the competency enhancement program, specifically designed to address the needs of the Arab region, through SAFE with the intent to lead, at minimum, to a community of practice of food safety risk assessors, that can be called upon to support science and risk-based regulatory decisions, both for incident management and standard setting in the Arab region. Such efforts will enable a stronger coherence in food decisions amongst Arab countries and in alignment with international best practices as well as the SPS agreement of the World Trade Organization.

Two other phases are envisaged for the completion of this unique competency enhancement program, through an On-line training period for the upcoming three months, followed by a last phase of face-to-face risk assessment workshops, to be held in Amman, Jordan, in October, 2019.

SAFE is a food safety capacity building funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) and implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in partnership with the League of Arab States (LAS) and its subsidiary organizations the Arab Organization for Agriculture Development (AOAD) and the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO).

Propagating Training and Research in #FoodRegulatoryScience on #WorldFoodSafety Day

One day each year is now dedicated to food safety. Today, June 7th, 2019 and together, we celebrate the first-ever World Food Safety Day!

Food safety is a prerequisite to food availability and security. Unsafe food is not a commodity that can be traded, may lead to serious health repercussions, not only in individuals but across populations. Food that is not safe can undermine consumer confidence and trust.

Food Control Systems aim to ensure that consumers are protected from instances of unsafe food, to clarify responsibilities and provide guidance to all parties involved in food production, across the supply chain, such that food safety hazards are identified and prevented from introduction in the food supply. Food Control Regimes empower regulators to set and oversee food production requirements, make the relevant decisions to protect consumers and to ensure fair practices in the food trade. Ineffective Food Control Structures, associated with ill-equipped regulators, result in unpredictable environments and untrustworthy markets leading, unequivocally, to potential health and economic emergencies. Investing in food safety capacity building should encompass not only upgrades to the food production sector but also enhancement of regulatory oversight in a given jurisdiction.
Faculty-FSAATraining and propagation of food regulatory sciences is one avenue to enable the improvement of competencies and capacities of food regulators around the world. This is one of the mandates of the Food Risk Analysis and Regulatory Excellence Platform (PARERA), recently created by the Department of Food Sciences jointly with the Institute of Nutrition and Functional Food (INAF) of the Université Laval. The Platform contributes to the development of tailored training on risk analysis, with a specific focus on risk assessment, as well as on best practices of food regulatory policies.

The Platform also plans to create an open access data hub for contaminant and nutrient occurrence in food and to support the collection of food consumption information useful for exposure assessment purposes.

Recognizing the importance of food testing in generating the scientific information underpinning food regulatory decision-making, the Platform also hosts the International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL), a unique facility that develops and delivers competency enhancement programs in chemical residue analysis and other food chemical safety laboratory techniques.IFSTL parera

Fostering standardization of food analytical methods is another objective pursued by the Platform, with the objective to disseminate best practices in food analytical performance and to harmonize, globally, the reliance upon reference methods for (a) given analyte(s), with guidance / direction from the AOAC International.

The above represents a snapshot of commitments that colleagues and partners involved in the development of the Platform are helping to achieve through their invaluable dedication, engagement and funding.

Celebrating World Food Safety Day once a year presents not only an opportunity to review our progress on such obligations, but also to identify new needs and challenges that must be addressed now and into the future. As with similar endeavours, collaboration and partnerships are, without question, key to attain the desired impact: to achieve food safety through improved regulatory oversight.

Saudi Food & Drug Authority #SFDA Concludes the First Meeting of its International Risk Assessment Committee (IRAAC)

The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) hosted the first meeting of the International Risk Assessment Advisory Committee (IRAAC) from 27-29 November 2018 in Riyadh. His Excellency, Professor Al Jadhi, CEO of the SFDA opened the meeting and expressed his support to the work to be undertaken by the Committee in providing strategic and scientific advice to the Authority on risk assessment initiatives as well as on the way scientific opinions and risk determination should be positioned at the heart of the food decision-making process and standard setting. Profs., Patrick Wall (Ireland), Paul Brent (Australia), Dr. Yokiko Yamada (Japan) and myself (Samuel B. Godefroy) contributed to the meeting. Dr. Rashed Alarfaj, Executive Director, Department of Monitoring & Risk Assessment, represented the SFDA as the Ex-Officio member of the Committee.

The Committee meeting reviewed the proposed structure of the food decision-making process proposed by the SFDA in alignment with risk analysis principles, along with its supporting governance structure. It enabled to offer advice and comments on the SFDA projected integrated food monitoring program and on directions for food-related research to be undertaken by the SFDA Research Centre. The Committee also discussed the outputs of risk ranking and development of risk profiles by SFDA science and policy teams in relation with priority food hazards. Committee members appreciated the level of maturity of the SFDA risk assessment capacity and offered advice on future directions of investments in training in this discipline as well as tool acquisition and modernization, in alignment with the leadership vision of the Authority, at the regional and international level.

I was honoured to be appointed Chair of the committee for the next 2 years and am looking forward to contributing with my peers and colleagues to providing advice towards strengthening the already robust foundation of risk assessment and risk analysis capacity of the SFDA for the benefit of consumers in Saudi Arabia and globally.

Additional links :

Report on IRAAC from SFDA’s Website ;

Example of Media Coverage of the meeting  ; Coverage by the Saudi Press Agency


La #FSAA de l’Université Laval Signe un Accord de Principe avec l’Autorité de Sécurité Sanitaire d’Inde #FSSAI

26 Octobre 2018 – Mumbai – Inde – La faculté des sciences de l’Agriculture de de l’alimentation (FSAA) de l’Université Laval signe un accord de principe pour le développement de collaborations avec l’Autorité de Sécurité Sanitaire d’Inde (FSSAI).

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Cet accord a été signé en marge du the 19th Congress of Food Science and Technology, qui s’est tenu à Mumbai pendant la même semaine. La collaboration anticipée s’inscrit dans le cadre de l’installation prochaine au sein de la FSAA du Laboratoire International de Formation sur la Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments (IFSTL) et de la création du Centre de Formation International sur la Sécurité Sanitaire des Aliments et la Nutrition (ITC-FSAN) établi conjointement entre la FSSAI et le Conseil d’Inspection des Exportations de l’Inde (EIC). L’entente couvrira les aspects de développement de compétences sur l’analyse des risques, les politiques règlementaires ainsi que l’analyse de la contamination alimentaire.

L’accord de collaboration sera développé et se mettre en place progressivement courant 2019.

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Signing of a Memorandum of Intent between the Food Safety Standards Authority of India #FSSAI @ Université Laval’s FSSA, On the Margins of the 19th Congress of Food Science and Technology

Mumbai, India, 26 October 2018, 

On the margins of the 19thWorld Congress of Food Science and Technology held in Mumbai on October 23 – 27, 2018, a Memorandum of Intent (MOI) was signed between the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and Université Laval’s Faculty of Agriculture and Food Science (FSAA), Québec, Canada.


The MOI calls for the development of collaborative efforts in setting training initiatives in areas supporting risk analysis and regulatory policy development. In particular, partnership in training associated with food chemical testing will be developed in conjunction with the future installation of the International Food Safety Training Laboratory (IFSTL) at Université Laval and the creation of the International Training Centre on Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (ITC-FSAN) to be established jointly between FSSAI and India’s Export Inspection Council (EIC).

Continuing to Foster a Risk Assessment Capacity to Support Aligned Food Safety Regulatory Decisions @arabsafetrade

Tunis, 19 July 2018 The Expert Working Group on Food Safety Risk Assessment for the Arab Region, concluded its 2-day meeting in Tunis, Tunisia with participation from Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Qatar and Tunisia.


This working group, chaired by Morocco, was struck and has been active since December 2016 under the auspices of the Arab Food Safety Initiative for Trade Facilitation (SAFE), implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and funded by the Government of Sweden. It aims at developing a food safety risk assessment capacity for the Arab region, to support increased alignment in food regulatory measures between food regulators in the region, as a result of the adoption of science-based decisions.

IMG_3253Meeting participants examined the risk assessment training program to be delivered, as part of SAFE and developed recommendations for its implementation. The EWG also agreed to continue the development of collaborative initiatives in risk assessment capacity building with European food risk assessment institutions such as the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) etc..

Arab experts reviewed the pilot risk assessment studies to be undertaken in the Arab region, throughout the upcoming year and agreed on their scope: “Salmonella in Broiler chicken”, “Aflatoxins in the Arab diet” and “Ochratoxin A in cereal-derived foods”. The requirements for the calls for data to support these studies were finalized with the aim to attempt to capture as much food occurrence and exposure information as possible from food authorities and academic organizations in the Arab region.

Experts discussed efforts to bolster the food safety risk assessment capacity throughout the Arab region and enable it with the required baseline information for sustainability of investments. A recommendation was made to initiate the development of food consumption data in various Arab sub-regions. At a time where a number of food safety regulatory authorities are initiating this effort, the EWG recommended that SAFE guides this effort with the development of a common set of requirements including an agreed-upon food categorization system as well as guidelines for the implementation of data collection, to enable opportunities of seamless data sharing and the possibility of use of such data throughout the Arab region. Participants reiterated the importance of risk assessment as a key foundation of robust food safety regulatory decisions and the need to further broadening of risk assessment capacity amongst food safety regulators in the Arab region.


The Arab Risk Assessment Initiative is one of the key initiatives implemented as part of the Arab Food Safety Initiative for Trade Facilitation (SAFE): arabsafetrade.org
The Arab Food Safety Initiative for Trade Facilitation (SAFE) is a capacity building project financed by the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) in collaboration with the League of Arab States (LAS), the Arab Industrial Development and Mining Organization (AIDMO) and the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD)