An EU-funded project aiming to boost food safety for infants in the European Union and China has begun.

The Safe Food for Infants in the EU and China (SAFFI) project is planned to run until the end of August 2024 and involves academia, food safety authorities, infant food companies, and technology and data-science SMEs. EU funding in the Horizon 2020 project is almost €4 million ($4.9 million) with an overall budget of €6.75 million ($8.2 million).

Work from 20 partners, led by the French National Institute for Agriculture, Food, and Environment (INRAE), is targeting food for the EU’s 15 million and China’s 45 million children younger than age three.

Project plan
The aim is to develop an approach to boost the identification, assessment, detection and mitigation of safety risks posed by microbial and chemical hazards along EU and China infant food chains.

Partners will benchmark the main risks through a hazard identification system based on multiple data sources and a risk ranking procedure. Four case studies will be selected to cover priority hazards, main ingredients, processes and control steps of the infant food chain.

The hope is to discover any unexpected contaminants by predictive toxicology and improve risk-based food safety management of biohazards by omics and predictive microbiology. The end result should be a decision support system designed to enhance safety control along the food chain.

Resulting databases, tools and procedures will be shared, cross-validated, linked, benchmarked and harmonized for further use in the EU and China.

SAFFI will also set up training and knowledge transfer activities to help EU-China harmonization of good practices, regulations, standards and technologies, and will work with other projects under the EU-China FAB Flagship initiative on food safety control.

Partners include the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (ANSES), Wageningen University in the Netherlands, Institute for Food and Agricultural Research and Technology (IRTA) in Spain, Fraunhofer in Germany, manufacturers HiPP International and FrieslandCampina as well as Zhejiang University, Yangzhou Fangguang Food Co. and Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences in China.

Similar project ongoing
Another project looking at food safety and authenticity in Europe and China is ongoing. The effort, called EU-China-Safe and coordinated by Queen’s University Belfast, began in 2017 and is scheduled to end in August 2021.

It involves 15 participants from the EU and 18 from China including the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), Nestlé, Fera Science, Danone, Nofima in Norway, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and the China National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA).

The aim is to build the core components needed for a joint EU-China food safety system including control management, food legislation, inspection, food control laboratories, and food safety and quality information, education and communication.

It will develop an EU-China Joint Laboratory Network to demonstrate equivalency of results, and a virtual lab, with interchangeable staff from two continents, as a showcase to communicate and demonstrate best practices.

Trade barriers caused by food safety and fraud issues are being analyzed with recommendations made on how to predict and prevent future issues. The project is looking at the most commonly reported foods linked to chemical and microbiological contamination and fraud such as infant formula, processed meat, fruits, vegetables, wine, honey and spices.

Digital tech project
Finally, the EU-funded DiTECT project also recently launched with 33 participants and a budget of €4 million ($4.9 million).

The Agricultural University of Athens is leading the project with another 20 partners from the EU and 12 from China.

This work will develop a big data-enabled platform capable of predicting food safety parameters of a given product based on data collected in real time via sensors related to crops, grain storage, livestock and in the food supply. Methods will monitor and control environmental pollutants as well as chemical and biological hazards.

Digital Technologies as an enabler for a continuous transformation of food safety system (DiTECT) is a cloud-enabled storage system to predict food safety and will also incorporate blockchain.

Other partners are Cranfield University, Shandong Agricultural University, Videometer, Nemis Technologies, Glanbia and the Ministry of Health in Cyprus.

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