Statistically more than 0.5 mill Europeans will spend parts of their vacation sick due to home-prepared food. Scientists from several European countries are now heading to work in the new EU research project, Safeconsume to reduce this number. 

In the past, research has largely focused on what the food industry can do to improve food safety. However, several investigations have shown that unsafe practices are not uncommon in the households, and almost 30-40% of foodborne diseases occur from food prepared at home.  

“The food industry’s best efforts are of little use if food is not handled properly by the consumers. We are now starting a European-wide research project to provide consumers with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to store and prepare food more safely,” says project coordinator of SafeConsume Solveig Langsrud. She is also a senior scientist at the Norwegian food research institute Nofima.

Reduce health burden from foodborne illnesses

Contamination of food with microbes that spoil food or make it unsafe is a health and economic burden worldwide. According to estimates from WHO there is about 23 million cases of foodborne illness and 5.000 deaths in Europe every year. The overall objective of SafeConsume is to reduce health burden from foodborne illnesses.

SafeConsume is based on the assumption that consumer behaviour is both a core problem and solution to mitigating risk from foodborne illnesses. SafeConsume will develop new strategies and establish practices to help consumers mitigate food risks

SafeConsume will target the top five foodborne hazards, accounting for about 70% of the health burden related to food borne illness. These hazards are types of salmonella, campylobacter, toxoplasma, norovirus and listeria.  Common to all these hazards is that they are microbes that consumers through safe behavior partly or completely can eliminate. 

Interdisciplinary collaboration

SafeConsume is funded by Horizon2020 and coordinated by Nofima. With EUR 9.5 million at their disposal over five years, 31 partners in 14 countries in Europe will work to contribute to reducing health risks from food-borne illnesses.

The scientists will study the actual food preparation habits of consumers across Europe and look for practices that can improve safety.  At the same time, they will map reasons behind different practices.

The innovation mission of the interdisciplinary team of researchers from natural and social sciences, market actors and designers and health, food and educational authorities is to make it easier for people to do things correctly in the kitchen. The solutions will include tools, designs, information and education that takes into account both food safety and the need for tasty, healthy and convenient food.  

 “It is this interdisciplinary collaboration that I find so exciting about this project. We can achieve a lot when we work across disciplines throughout the entire process, from identifying the problem to implementing solutions.” says Langsrud.