Application ITP FS 2019 is open!
Ghent University – Department of Food Safety and Food Quality - is offering a 9 weeks International Training Program “Evidence-Based Decision making in Food Safety” (recalled “ITP Food Safety”)
The ITP “Evidence-Based Decision Making in Food Safety” (in short “ITP Food safety”) is the continuation of the experience build with the ITP “Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Risk Assessment” running sice 2009. The new proposal emerged from the needs to focus on the actual decision making process to manage food safety issues in emerging and developing countries. The revised ITP Food Safety introduces and strengthens the concept of ‘evidence-based decision making’. This concept is relatively new in food safety, but widely applied e.g. in public health management decisions. Evidence-based decision making can be defined as ‘a process for making decisions about a program, practice, or policy that is grounded in the best available research evidence and informed by experiential evidence from the field and relevant contextual evidence’ https://www.cebma.org/wp-content/uploads/Evidence-Based-Practice-The-Basic-Principles.pdf
Fig.1. The elements of evidence-based decision making
RATIONALE OF THE TRAINING :
Food security and sustainable food chains are being aimed for globally, however, in countries in the South, challenges are considerably bigger due to multiple reasons such as non-optimised food production systems, logistic restrictions, challenging climatic conditions, etc. Over the past decades, education and research in the South was mainly focused on the need to produce enough (nutritious) foods resulting in a significant improvement in the local capacity with respect to primary production, post-harvest and food processing technology. However, when a food chain is being established, food safety problems tend to occur during (prolonged) storage of foods, dislocation between site of production and consumption and/or post-contamination in multiple steps of food handling. Moreover, food safety requirements for export oriented chains were extended to the domestic food chains. In combination with the growing representation of developing countries in international organisations such as Codex Alimentarius (WHO/FAO) or in the recently created ARAC (Asian Risk Assessment Centre,(http://www.arac-asean.org/), human capacity building is further needed in evidence-based decision making as comprehensive approach including a qualitative or quantitative risk assessment to prioritize and support the selection of suitable mitigation strategies to improve food safety and thus also food security and food sustainability.
Elements present in evidence-based decision making (see fig. 1) are a) best available research evidence is to seek out available scientific insights and knowledge, followed by b) collecting information on the context or factors important to understand the local context for the decision making and finally c) feed with knowledge and experiences from stakeholders. Characteristics of the decision-making process are transparency, participation, openness, skilled leadership and according to a defined process.
SHIFT FROM ITP Food Safety, Quality Assurance and Risk Analysis towards new program
Thus, the ITP “Evidence-Based Decision Making in Food Safety” is a new program built on the experience and developed capacity of the former ITP “Food safety (FS), Quality Assurance (QA) and Risk Analysis (RA)”, which ran at UGent from 2009 till 2019. The revised ITP Food Safety program anticipates to and considers the evolution in developing and emerging countries over the last decade such as higher capacity available in multiple countries due to increasing investment in local bachelor or master programs, a broad alumni network of about 120 ITP trainees in FS, QA & RA, a network of former PhD students in the area of food science and food safety and an even broader network of UGent graduates from the VLIR UOS master programs in Food Technology and Human Nutrition (ICPs). In addition, economic growth in countries in the South and the increased awareness of the importance of food safety has initiated the creation of local risk assessment and management authorities, such bureaus of standards, ministries of agriculture or public health, food safety authorities, and cross-country organisations such as ARAC in Asia (Asian Risk Assessment Centre,(http://www.arac-asean.org/) in where several of our ITP FS, QA & RA alumni are represented. In these type of organisations, risk management and mitigation strategies such as installing risk based monitoring plans, risk assessment calculations with scenario analysis to evaluate potential mitigation options, setting legal criteria based on scientific advice are being elaborated, based on international guidelines as set by Codex Alimentarius or other international organisations such as ICMSF for microbiological hazards (http://www.icmsf.org/). Additional capacity building in this area is absolutely necessary, considering in particular the fact that the options taken should be tailored towards the local situation and circumstances.
Structure of the program: In our proposal two distinct processes are defined: (1) risk profiling, (2) evidence-based decision making process (see Annex 4 detailed program).
PART I: in home country with collaboration of ITP food safety alumni (15/08/2019 – 10/10/2019)
Risk profile : In case of a food safety problem, being a microbiological or chemical one, multiple steps need to be taken to enable risk profiling, such as hazard identification (which foods, which chain, which hazard) followed by a hazard characterisation (properties of the hazards, dose-response, toxicological information). This step will be conducted by the participant in his/her home country with the aid of the ITP FS, QA and RA alumni or local network acting as buddy to the participant, and with input and interaction from the UGent promotors or other staff as a UGent coach.
PART II: in Ghent (9 weeks : 14/10/2019 – 13/12/2019)
Evidence-based decision making : Subsequently, on basis of application of scientific knowledge and understanding and following a systematic methodology based on evidence, an advice for risk management or mitigation strategy is developed. Trainees will need to address a local food safety issues by considering aspects of 1) either sampling and analysis, 2) or quality assurance or 3) risk assessment. They will need to deal with scarcity of data, limitation of methods used for data collection on the occurrence of hazards of consumption data, bias in information obtained e.g. from outbreak reports and recalls, etc. They will need to take for example 1) decisions on stratification and the use of statistics for design of sampling plans or 2) be aware about the factors that drive and impact on the performance of a food safety management system in the agro-food chain or 3) they will need to learn and use appropriate risk assessment techniques. Next to the transfer of scientific knowledge on one these selected topics to deepen their knowledge and work on a ‘quantitative approach’ in line with current international standards and guidelines on these topics, focus will be made here also on how to use these aspects to feed in the decision-making process (see fig.1), which was less of a focus point in the previous ITP on FS, QA and RA, which was more technically oriented. For instance, participants will need to argue what strategy has to be chosen to have most impact in managing the targeted food safety problem. Similarly, mitigation options should be compared on a scientific basis (using theoretical knowledge, well designed plans and research driven) and evidence basis (using literature review, observations, measurements, local information). The process of evidence-based decision making and follow-up will be facilitated by lectures and coaching during the training course given in Ghent.
The department of Food Safety and Food Quality of the Faculty Bio Science Engineering of the Ghent University in Belgium (Europe) has a long history in cooperation with developing countries in the framework of research, education and projects in food safety, nutrition and food science. Out of this experience, the idea was born to create a train-the-trainer intensive program in order to disseminate knowledge and know how.