Agro-Know got funded for Foodakai: an intelligent app to harmonise access to food safety information

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One of the good news of this summer was that Agro-Know, together with EPI Interactive, have been selected for funding from the European Commission in order to develop further the concept of Foodakai: an intelligent online application that aims to help consumers and small food businesses get better and more quickly informed about emerging food risks and relevant food alerts in their area.

Food safety is one of the hottest topics these days; food has become more complex than ever with the addition of ingredients for coloring, flavor, preservation etc. that may be risk factors under specific conditions; at the same time, thanks to the advanced transportation systems, food may travel a long way from its production site to the consumer, going through various risks related to its preservation and storage. Last but not least, despite the enhanced measures taken in term of food hygiene, several foodborne diseases are reported on an annual basis, with an enormous cost in human health and agrifood economies.

 

The importance of food safety for human health highlights the need for instant and easy access to food safety-related information from all sources available, such as the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) portal of the European Commission and the Epidemic Intelligence Information System for Food- and Water-borne diseases (EPIS-FWD) of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), among others. However, the information remains scattered in various not connected locations, heterogeneous, and provided in various types and formats rendering it difficult to discover, understand and use for both consumers and small businesses.

Our proposal to carry out a 6-month exploratory study on Foodakai: Feasibility Assessment of an Intelligent Consumer App for Food Safety Alerts and Information was submitted to a recent European Commission call that aims to bring closer the public sector (and its information) with the consumers by SMEs deploying innovative e-government applications: H2020-SMEINST-1-2015. We have just found out that our proposal has been selected for funding and that this autumn we will be working on developing Foodakai in order to:

  • provide on-the-spot notifications and real-time monitoring on food product recalls, foodborne disease outbreaks, and emerging food risks, using information generated and provided by national government and international agencies.
  • help consumers to more easily discover information in their own language from their local and regional authorities, and combine it with relevant information from international sources – such as food authorities in neighboring countries and international agencies.
  • help small food service businesses get early, fresh and customised updates on food alerts relevant to them.

In simple words, Foodakai aims to provide an online application for harmonised discovery of food safety information, aggregating public sector data on foodborne disease incidents, food alerts, outbreaks, emerging risks and food product recalls. The application will be customizable to allow users to discover and view information in ways that match their preferences.

Foodakai will build on Agro-Know’s AKstem  online service — a suite of services and tools that help Agro-Know aggregate agri-food data from various sources and to connect with software tools that may be used for organisation, curation, enrichment, analysis, exposure, and discovery of information. Currently, AKstem supports the AGRIS bibliographic information service of the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) by managing and processing more than 150 incoming streams of bibliographic information from around the world, combining and transforming this information into a common, harmonized format. The AKstem software will require further adaptation to accommodate food-related data (e.g. food product recalls and foodborne disease outbreaks).

This work is in line with our contributions to the Global Food Safety Partnership (GFSP) and the so-called pilot of a Foodborne Disease Outbreak Information Discovery Service. You will hear more about Foodakai in the next months, so stay tuned!

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