Institute of Food Research, Norwich, UK

IFR is a center for research of international excellence based on the Norwich Research Park in East Anglia and sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. The mission is to carry out independent basic and strategic research on food safety, quality, nutrition and health. The Institute web site, has information about activities and includes a number of pages relating to projects and members of staff. The laboratory has about 250 employees. The Institute of Food Research has an established communications section that supports the dissemination of research results and provides a centre for independent food safety information. The work package leader is a principal scientist who has worked in food safety science and food materials science at IFR for more than 25 years.

Website: Link

Contact Person: Gary Barker

PROMISE @ IFR - EU Food safety data, models for uncertainty and variability and appreciation of cheese production

In Europe the EFSA and the ECDC collect, collate and publish data about food borne illness and zoonoses within the community each year. National data is submitted annually by each EU MS and covers a variety of issues from reported outbreaks of food borne illness to the prevalence of zoonotic agents in flocks of laying hens. The data can be used to indicate changes in time (trends) or to make comparisons between MSs (spatial patterns) but these signals are difficult to visualise and interpret. IFR, in collaboration with PROMISE partners from Slovenia, Germany and Greece, explored the origins of uncertainty and variability in the national reports and whether additional analyses or modelling approaches could assist with harmonization or could improve the interpretation of food safety information. 

In collaboration with the University of Ljubljana IFR built a small data base of new data sources but also confirmed that the EFSA annual summaries, and the national submissions which support them, represent the dominant EU food safety information supply. At IFR Rob Penfold studied traditional time series analyses of summary data, the strengths and weaknesses, and this prompted an alternative view based on discrete changes that is more commonly associated with biosurveillance. Additionally IFR supported BfR to explore new visualization techniques for EU summary information that can express spatial differences and facilitate comparisons between spatial regions. 

Following on from previous work performed by the MedVetNet group IFR collaborated with Jasna Kovač from Ljubljana to examine factors that drive considerable variability in national reporting of food borne illness. Within the reporting process some key features can be identified, such as the way in which bloody diarrhoea is reported by cases and by practitioners, and these form the basis for guiding improved reporting and increased harmonization. 

Gary Barker joined with Panos Skandamis to deliver the third PROMISE Technical Training Workshop in Greece. The workshop covered many aspects of mathematical modelling and left several previously inexperienced modellers with a feel for Monte Carlo simulation! During the PROMISE project colleagues from Slovenia and Austria visited IFR as part of the mobility programme and, in return, Gary Barker made a very enjoyable visit to the Veterinary University in Vienna. This visit initiated an unexpected collaboration relating to the dynamics of listeria contamination in cheese manufacturing factories. This collaboration is ongoing and, hopefully, will remain a shared interest long after PROMISE has ended.

Team IFR