Introduction

Science is a critical core competency that underpins our ability to achieve our purpose. High quality regulatory science is based on the best available evidence, incorporates information from numerous disciplines and forms the foundation for our evidence-based regulatory decision-making that protects people from hazards that may arise from food.

The FSANZ Regulatory Science Strategy 2019-23 positions FSANZ as a leader of regulatory science in our region and provides a solid framework for all of FSANZ's scientific activities. It is a forward looking strategy, ensuring we remain prepared to respond to the challenges to global trends and emerging risks in a dynamic food system. The performance measures presented here illustrate only some of the expected outcomes that are identified in the Regulatory Science Strategy.

Data

The data reported below was collected through direct observation of activities undertaken during the 2019-20 period.

Results

Outcome ​Performance measure ​Results ​Context
​FSANZ has a modern scientific evidence base and applies best practice tools and methods

New data and analysis generated or shared to support food safety and standards development

Number of

  • new scientific data and analysis items shared by FSANZ to externals
  • scientific data items shared by externals to FSANZ

 

 

 

59

 

 

2

​The range of publications during this period included 36 imported food risk advice documents. FSANZ staff also contributed to 10 articles published in scientific peer-reviewed journals and published literature reviews, results of surveys, analytical data and other reports about our science.

FSANZ strives to improve our access to scientific data from our external stakeholders and incorporate these for use in our risk assessments. During this period we received data from industry and our regulatory partners.

Skill development in, or application of risk assessment methods

  • Number of engagements with domestic and international experts by staff to share and develop capability in risk assessment methods

 

 

51

​FSANZ participates in numerous fora to ensure that we apply modern risk assessment tools and methods to support risk-based approaches consistent with international best practice.

FSANZ continually develops our skills in risk assessment methodologies in all areas of our science, such as chemical risk assessment, nutrition science, microbiology, biotechnologies, social science and economics.  This enables our scientific assessments to be robust and defensible.

Case study – Published Risk advice for imported foods

Ensuring a modern scientific evidence base enables FSANZ to better monitor, predict and target risks and scientific trends. FSANZ uses the most up-to-date scientific literature to inform our scientific risk assessments. This ensures the best available evidence continues to support our regulatory decision making. FSANZ also strives to continually increase the number of scientific data and analysis items we share with our external stakeholders, such as scientific publications, reports and data that we generate.

FSANZ takes an evidence based approach to determine food safety risks and prepares risk advice for imported food. This advice informs the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on whether imported foods pose a potential medium or high risk to public health.

The 36 imported food risk advice documents published on the FSANZ website during this period provide risk advice on a range of foods and associated hazards. This work contributes to the FSANZ overarching Corporate objective to ensure food imported into Australia is safe.

Read more on our advice on imported food page.

Case study – Skill development and application in expert elicitation

Expert elicitation is a structured and targeted consultation process to gather information. It is used to overcome data and information gaps where other sources of obtaining information have been exhausted or not feasible.

FSANZ has developed capabilities in expert elicitation related to food safety, and has recently applied this modern method to inform our work relating to Primary Production and Process Requirements for high-risk horticulture.

The elicitation panel included a mix of subject area experts and representatives from jurisdictional health and agriculture agencies. The outputs of the elicitation is the percentage attribution of the total burden of disease for five foodborne pathogens, namely Listeria monocytogenes, Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli, non-typhoidal Salmonella spp., hepatitis A virus and norovirus in three high-risk horticultural products: berries, leafy green vegetables and melons.

This approach has provided the best available scientific information, with the attribution percentages to be included in a customised FSANZ Cost of illness model to calculate the total number of cases and resulting financial burden associated with illness due to high-risk horticulture. Ultimately this work ensures science based regulations and procedures facilitate efficient trade and maintains our position as a leader of regulatory science in the region.

​Outcome ​Performance measure ​Results ​Context
​FSANZ links and partners with key contributors

Collaborations and joint projects

Number of

  • joint projects during the period

 

 

22

​Joint projects are an important way that FSANZ leverages scientific expertise and resources. Together with our partners in academia, industry, research institutions and government, FSANZ has progressed 22 unique and formalised joint projects; 16 of which are externally funded. Three joint projects undertaken with New Zealand Food Safety were successfully completed, with the findings currently being incorporated into our scientific evidence base.

Leveraging external scientific expertise

Number of

  • productive interactions with FSANZ Fellows
  • meetings of FSANZ expert advisory groups and/or engagements for peer review
  • in-house seminars by external scientific experts

 

 

31

 

12

 

 

13

​FSANZ has a number of established groups and programs to facilitate interactions with scientific experts. These include the fellows program, expert advisory groups and FSANZ-hosted in-house seminars. We strive to increase engagement for the purpose of sharing expertise and improving the robustness of our scientific risk assessments.

Case study – PhD research project ‘Evaluating dietary safety of Australian bush foods’

FSANZ has established a collaboration with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) which seeks to inform the evidence base around the history of safe use of traditional Australian and New Zealand foods. Luke Williams (Gumbaynggirr man and the RMIT PVC Tullamareena prize winner for 2018) has been successful in obtaining the RMIT Vice-Chancellor’s Indigenous Pre-Doctoral Research Fellow position to work on the project. The project seeks to contribute to the establishment of a framework that better defines the concept of history of safe use and assists in establishing a more fit for purpose approach for novel foods. Luke is currently in the early stages of engagement with other interested parties with the intention of ensuring that the project is indigenous led.

Case study – Leveraging external expertise

The FSANZ fellows program was established in 2000 to create a network of experts who can provide FSANZ with objective expert advice and critical review. The program also helps to develop academic links and networks. FSANZ has had 20 Fellows engaged through the program during this period, including five new appointments. For the first time we have engaged a Fellow with expertise in science communication, who has been facilitating our communication activities including the area of new breeding techniques.

FSANZ also hosted a Fellows day that was attended by FSANZ staff, Board members and invited regulatory partners. Seven Fellows presented in their areas of expertise, with the key themes of the day being food-microbe host interactions and immunology, biotechnology and science communication. Each of these themes relate to current and emerging areas of work, with the expertise provided by the Fellows complementing in-house capabilities. The day was a success with positive feedback received from all attendees. New relationships were established, existing relationships strengthened and further opportunities for collaboration identified.

Read more on our fellows page.

Conclusion

FSANZ ‘s performance in regulatory science is challenging to evaluate quantitatively and qualitative measures or case studies can provide a better picture of our achievements. The results reported reflect a baseline for selected areas that can be used for comparison in subsequent reporting periods. Our success will be realised through developing evidence and science based standards, which will in turn help to deliver safe food across Australia and New Zealand.

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