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Exploring the international food safety authorities network as a community of practice: Results from a global survey of network members

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>28/02/2021
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Food Protection
Issue number2
Number of pages13
Pages (from-to)262-274
Publication StatusPublished
Early online date25/09/20
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) is a global network of national food safety authorities from 190 countries, managed jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization, which facilitates the rapid exchange of information during food safety incidents. Until now, INFOSAN has not been characterized or examined as a functional community of practice, and its value, as understood from the perspective of its members, has not been determined in a systematic or rigorous way. The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the experiences and opinions of INFOSAN members to better understand the role of the network in improving food safety and mitigating the burden of foodborne illness globally. There were four main research questions: (i) How is the INFOSAN Community Website being used to support network activities? (ii) What are the barriers to active participation in INFOSAN? (iii) Do INFOSAN members believe that participation in the network prevents foodborne illness and saves lives? and (iv) Does participation in INFOSAN create value for members, and if so, through what mechanisms does this occur? To answer these questions, an online questionnaire was developed and adapted from English into French and Spanish before being disseminated to INFOSAN members. Responses were received from 239 INFOSAN members in 137 countries over a 10-week period between August and October 2019. This study represents the first to explore and describe the experiences of INFOSAN members with respect to their participation in network activities to improve global food safety and prevent foodborne diseases and to describe the characteristics of INFOSAN as a community of practice. The results suggest that INFOSAN is a valued tool, used globally to reduce the burden of foodborne illness and save lives. The INFOSAN Secretariat could use the results to prioritize future activities to further strengthen the network and support participation of members.