PROJECT AMBASSADOR OF June 2013
Dr Santiago Pascual / Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas, Spain
Dr. Santiago Pascual is the coordinator of this international multidisciplinary consortium aiming to provide technological developments to improve detection, monitoring and impact mitigation of zoonotic parasites in European and imported fish products. The PARASITE project is expected to contribute to enhance seafood safety, to strengthen the competitiveness of European industry and to improve the EU food safety policies.
About Santiago Pascual
Dr. Santiago Pascual del Hierro has a degree (University of Santiago de Compostela –Spain, 1991) and a PhD (University of Vigo –Spain, 1996) in Biology. He has held research positions in different institutions and has been granted by Marie Curie (ICBAS, University of Porto –Portugal, 2002-2004) and Ramón y Cajal (IIM-CSIC –Vigo, Spain) programmes. At present, he is a tenured scientist at the Department of Ecology and Marine Biodiversity (ECOBIOMAR) at the Marine Reseach Institute of the Spanish National Research Council. Dr. Pascual has published more than eighty SCI referenced papers on ecology of marine parasites and parasite-induced pathology in marine organisms. He is specialized in multidisciplinary studies on disease epidemiology, including marine contamination, biodiversity and fisheries management, among other topics. He is also currently leading a Spanish network intended to transfer the research results dealing with parasites to the fishing industry and inspection bodies involved in the management of this biohazard in the food chain.
Dr. Pascual is providing hereunder some key answers about the Parasite project:
How technology is expected to contribute, within the project context, to enhance seafood safety?
The Parasite project is aimed, among other things, at improving visual, ultraviolet and molecular inspection methods for detection of parasites, relevant to human health, in fishery products. On the other hand, treatments defined by the legislation in force to kill viable endoparasites are being evaluated and alternative physical treatments are being assessed and compared to the freezing method described in the hygiene regulations. All this work will actively contribute to have safer and consumer trustworthy seafood in European markets.
Besides the more reliable and accurate methods for detection of parasites and their proteins in the fishery products, the performance of comprehensive epidemiological studies to assess the risk for consumers will contribute to improve the European food safety policies.
Why the industrial involvement has been considered essential for this project?
The involvement of industrial partners from different segments of the value chain is crucial, since it will ensure the implementation of the achieved results and spread the idea that the industry is actively committed to solve the problem and to play a relevant role in implementing new strategies to mitigate the impact of parasites. Moreover, their experience in the project will be a good demonstrator of the effectiveness of the developed solutions for a wider group of potential end-users.
Among other things, industrial partners are providing biological samples for the experimental work, will test the efficiency of the developed technologies and will contribute directly to the design of some of the solutions for the elimination or inactivation of the parasite.
This project is also expected to provide relevant inputs for the food safety authorities. How is it planned to approach them?
Providing tools to support food safety authorities’ decisions is one of the main goals of the Parasite project. The results obtained within the project will also allow health authorities to improve diagnostics and treatments and to be more effective in designing prevention programs.
A permanent dialogue with food safety authorities will be the main path for achieving this goal. The foreseen interlocutors are:
- The EU Reference Laboratory for Parasites (ISS), which is a member of the project consortium. This will help directly channeling information to EU authorities and also getting feedback from them.
- Representatives from health and food national and EU authorities will also be regularly informed. They will be invited to participate in dissemination activities such as training workshops, seminars and symposia, discussion panels, etc. Some of them will be granted access to test some of the tools developed in the project.
- Resposibles of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will be invited to attend the different project meetings. Moreover, information from the wp9 will be also communicated to the Biohazards Panel of the EFSA as an official channel to reach UE policy makers and related consultIve bodies
How will the project reach consumers' interests?
The Parasite project aims to increase consumers’ confidence in fish products through providing accurate and trustworthy information on fish parasites related risks and their related management. For achieving this challenging goal, a thorough communication plan has been designed. Consumers and civil society will be approached through different channels such as mass media and the website (an updated project website and project profiles at relevant social networks).
We are aware that nowadays some companies are already offering “Anisakis-free” labelled fish products, which indicates that consumers are probably willing to pay more for the availability of a proof of guaranteed safety in fish products, either because of their origin, the species or due to the treatments they have been applied. Consumers’ willingness to pay is also an issue being studied within the project.