Operational Procedures & Key Elements of FSER:
Criteria for considerations of food safety emergency:
Food hazard characterization: The determination of significant hazard should be conducted by experienced risk assessors and information derived from food safety monitoring at the national level should be considered to identify a level of severity in each food safety incident
Magnitude and severity degree of the food safety incident: To determine, numbers of cases, magnitude of a hazard and the degree of consequences due to consumption of foods or food products reported are taken into account. This also includes potential of incident spreading with respects to distribution route, consumption rate and consumer trends. Magnitude and severity degree of the incidents are divided into
In addition to above, following queries may also be considered:
Surveillance will be essential in identifying a food emergency or the initial signs of an emergency unfolding. Local sources will be instrumental during the initial identification of an unintentional or deliberate foodrelated incident. These local sources would include consumers, local health departments, food retailers, manufacturers, distributors, processors, producers and media. Events detected through national food control system may be assessed, for identifying whether an event is an emergency or not, considering criteria as mentioned above in section 5.2 (A). Food safety incidents/emergencies may include cases of illness due to an outbreak of food and water-borne diseases, cases of food or food products contaminated by chemicals like metallic contaminations, residues of pesticides or veterinary drugs which poses potential risk to health, cases of food adulterations etc.
Food safety emergency situation shall be declared by FSSAI or FSCC after reviewing and analysing the information collected for food safety incident. In case of food borne illness, outbreak shall be declared by NCDC/health departments in consultation with FSSAI. If incident is identified as emergency then a response phase will be initiated.
Emergency response phases:
Alert phase: Notifying identified food safety incident to INFOSAN Secretariat and/or National authorities or organization or media, if required. The kind and extent of alert will be decided by Coordination Committee based on the analysis report submitted by FSRAC to Coordination committee.
Action phase: Food Safety Coordination Committee will take immediate actions/safety measures in order to control food safety emergency situation. Following measures may be taken based on the need of the situation:
Stand down phase: If the risk is mitigated or situation seems to be in control then advisory should be withdrawn and further advice to industry and consumer should be issued, if necessary. This will be decided by FSCC. Spoke person who is assigned by the FSCC will inform relevant agencies, stakeholders, media and the public that the event has been implemented and solved and returned to normal condition normal. The measures used in emergency management, lesson-learned and impact of the food safety event will be reviewed and evaluated to restore and prevent of the incident that may happen in the future.
It is an important process to inform of the efficiency of the measures to the public and stakeholders through various means like media/press. Communication language during emergency event must be easy to understand and must cover all groups of stakeholders, press and media, public and international organization.
Effective communication is a crucial aspect of successful food safety emergency management. Throughout the course of emergency, it is important to share relevant information with:
Communication with the public: The purpose of public information in the event of a food safety emergency is to provide: – accurate information about the food safety incidents/emergency; – information on implicated food products and how they should be handled; – advice on personal hygiene measures to reduce the risk of person-to-person spread.
State Food authority should periodically issue mitigation measures or do’s/don’ts through press releases to the public.
If a food safety emergency has attracted intensive publicity, it may be necessary to establish a telephone helpline for the public. It is important that such help lines are staffed by individuals who have been trained in gathering additional information (e.g., details about cases) from callers.
Communication with the media: As the major interface between the general public and the health authorities, the media play an important role during food safety emergency. Developing good relationships with the media before an outbreak occurs may be very helpful in facilitating crisis-related communication. The media may be notified of such outbreaks either officially through the FSSAI or State Food Authority media releases. In either circumstance it is important for local government to contact the FSSAI before releasing any outbreak information to the media and to ensure that any investigatory work undertaken by the FSSAI is accurately reflected in the media correspondence.
Communication with authorities and other professional groups: The most relevant authorities and professional groups include local health authorities, food, water, agricultural and veterinary authorities, and educational organizations. Whenever possible, established communication channels and regular meetings should be used as the most efficient means of keeping authorities and other professional groups fully informed. It is the responsibility of the Food Safety Commissioner to communicate with authorities and other professional groups, if needed, through appropriate means from time to time during food safety emergency.
Responsibility of the Food safety agencies/authorities during food safety emergency situation:
Post incident review and evaluation:
It includes the review process for response activities, communication methodologies, and regulatory procedures to prevent production/distribution of implicated foods, capacity & reporting of laboratories, inspection services, and effectiveness of product recall. Based on the review learning lesions from the food safety incidents or emergencies, gaps may be identified which could be addressed to improve measures of the FSER plan and also preparedness for resources and development systems or of structure that can be implemented by the measures more efficiently. Further, it also includes maintenance of record of such emergencies faced like product description, type of hazard and health effects observed, actions taken and their result, duration of emergency etc.
A district level and/or state level advisory committee are responsible for post incidence monitoring and review and therefore should:
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