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PLOS ONE  2012 

Interactive Network Analytical Tool for Instantaneous Bespoke Interrogation of Food Safety Notifications

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035652

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Abstract:

Background The globalization of food supply necessitates continued advances in regulatory control measures to ensure that citizens enjoy safe and adequate nutrition. The aim of this study was to extend previous reports on network analysis relating to food notifications by including an optional filter by type of notification and in cases of contamination, by type of contaminant in the notified foodstuff. Methodology/Principal Findings A filter function has been applied to enable processing of selected notifications by contaminant or type of notification to i) capture complexity, ii) analyze trends, and iii) identify patterns of reporting activities between countries. The program rapidly assesses nations' roles as transgressor and/or detector for each category of contaminant and for the key class of border rejection. In the open access demonstration version, the majority of notifications in the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed were categorized by contaminant type as mycotoxin (50.4%), heavy metals (10.9%) or bacteria (20.3%). Examples are given demonstrating how network analytical approaches complement, and in some cases supersede, descriptive statistics such as frequency counts, which may give limited or potentially misleading information. One key feature is that network analysis takes the relationship between transgressor and detector countries, along with number of reports and impact simultaneously into consideration. Furhermore, the indices that compliment the network maps and reflect each country's transgressor and detector activities allow comparisons to be made between (transgressing vs. detecting) as well as within (e.g. transgressing) activities. Conclusions/significance This further development of the network analysis approach to food safety contributes to a better understanding of the complexity of the effort ensuring food is safe for consumption in the European Union. The unique patterns of the interplay between detectors and transgressors, instantly revealed by our approach, could supplement the intelligence gathered by regulatory authorities and inform risk based sampling protocols.

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