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The food safety barometer

Measuring food safety

Measuring food safety

  Within the concept of measuring the safety of the food chain, the food safety barometer is the first instrument that was developed. Food safety is a comprehensive notion and is mostly linked to health. Although safe food is important in order to protect the health of consumers, the relation between food and health surpasses food safety. Unbalanced eating patterns for example, may cause diabetes, heart and vascular diseases, and high energy food (in combination with a lack of exercise) may cause obesity. The food safety barometer only includes the chemical, physical and microbiological hazards of food. Exposure of humans to these hazards through other sources than food (e.g. through the air) is not included in the barometer. Furthermore, the food safety barometer does not include any judgment of the health situation of the population.

The food safety barometer consists of a basket of 30 carefully chosen, measurable indicators (food safety indicators or FSI) which together reflect the food safety situation. These indicators include all links of the food chain, i.e. from suppliers to consumers for both the Belgian production and for imports. The control of products (on the presence of chemical and biological hazards) and of processes (inspections and audits) are both included in the basket. The preventive approach (self-checking, compulsory notification, traceability (FR)) and foodborne outbreaks are also covered by the barometer.
The majority of these indicators are measured within the context of the control programme of the FASFC, allowing a simple annual monitoring. Given the different impact of these 30 indicators upon food safety, their relative importance was weighted by the various stakeholders of the food chain, i.e. risk managers, the Advisory Committee (including representatives of other public administrations and of the various sector and consumer organisations) and the Scientific Committee of the FASFC. As such, indicators related to inspections were given more importance than indicators related e.g. to acrylamide or Salmonella in meat-type pigs or laying hens (SciCom Advice 11-2012).
An overview of the various indicators and their weighting factors is given in the table “Overview of the food safety indicators”. More details on the indicators can be found in the technical data sheets presented in Annex 3 of Advice 28-2010 of the Scientific Committee.

Based on the results of the food safety indicators and the weighting of the relative importance of these indicators a food safety barometer may thus be defined. This barometer measures the state of the food safety in Belgium on an annual basis, and this with respect to the previous year. The result of the barometer must be expressed as a comparison to the state of a previous year as it is difficult to express food safety in absolute figures, since food safety depends, among other things, on standards or action limits defined on a policy-level and liable to changes.

Overview of the food safety indicators (FSI) :

Ref. Type of indicator Weighting factor
FSI1: Mandatory notification with regard to food safety 1,16
FSI2: Self-checking systems in the supply sector for primary production 0,9 
FSI3: Self-checking systems in the primary sector 0,71
FSI4: Self-checking systems in the transformation sector 1,16
FSI5: Self-checking systems in the community kitchen sector 0,79
FSI6: Monitoring of self-checking throughout the food chain 2,06
FSI7: Inspections of infrastructure, installations and hygiene in the sectors of distribution, hotels & restaurants and community kitchens 1,88
FSI8: Inspections regarding traceability within the food chain 1,65
FSI9: Residues from pesticides/herbicides in fruit and vegetables of Belgian origin 0,98
FSI10: Acrylamide 0,41
FSI11: Lead and cadmium in fruit and vegetables 0,75
FSI12: Aflatoxin and deoxynivalenol 0,9 
FSI13: Substances with an anabolic action, unauthorized substances and veterinary drugs for cattle and pigs 1,5 
FSI14: Sulfite in minced meat 0,38
FSI15: Dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in dairy products and in eggs 0,98
FSI16: Mercury in molluscs, crustaceans and fish 0,53
FSI17: Residues from pesticides/herbicides in fruit and vegetables originating from other EU countries and third countries 1,39
FSI18: Forbidden colorants 0,53
FSI19: Chemical and microbiological hazards in imported animal products intended for human consumption 1,73
FSI20: Dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in feed 0,94
FSI21: Contact materials 0,64
FSI22: Salmonella sp. in meat pigs 0,49
FSI23: Salmonella sp. in layer hens 0,49
FSI24: Salmonella sp. in poultry and pigs  0,98
FSI25: E. coli in carcasses and cut meat 0,68
FSI26: E. coli in foodstuffs 0,71
FSI27: Listeria monocytogenes in foodstuffs 0,9 
FSI28: Foodborne outbreaks 1,46
FSI29: Salmonellosis in humans 1,28
FSI30: Listeriosis in humans 1,09
Our mission is to preserve the safety and the quality of our food in order to protect humans, animals and plants.

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