Food safety

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN)

Last Reviewed
4 February 2014



The rapid globalization of food production and trade has increased the potential likelihood of international incidents involving contaminated food. Food safety authorities all over the world have acknowledged that ensuring food safety must not only be tackled at the national level but also through closer linkages among food safety authorities at the international level. This is important for exchanging routine information on food safety issues, sharing experiences and expertise and to have rapid access to information in case of food safety emergencies.

The International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN) is a joint initiative between WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). This a global network includes 181 Member States. Each has a designated INFOSAN Emergency Contact Point for communication between national food safety authorities and the INFOSAN Secretariat regarding urgent events. Recognizing that food safety is often a shared responsibility, countries are also asked to identity Focal Points in other ministries or relevant agencies to receive INFOSAN communications.

The network aims to:

  • Promote the rapid exchange of information during food safety related events;
  • Share information on important food safety related issues of global interest;
  • Promote partnership and collaboration between countries; and
  • Help countries strengthen their capacity to manage food safety risks.

As part of its routine activities, the INFOSAN Secretariat publishes Information Notes, in the six official WHO languages, to provide members with summaries on relevant food safety issues. Guidance has also been developed on a number of topics related to food safety emergency preparedness and response.

INFOSAN also facilitates the exchange of food safety information and experience among its members. Training on the function and purpose of INFOSAN has been included in training courses conducted through the WHO Global Foodborne Infections Network (GFN). INFOSAN is introduced in these courses as a mechanism through which findings of investigations and strategies for improving food safety may be shared.

INFOSAN systematically monitors for potential international food safety related events in addition to receiving information through INFOSAN emergency contact points. This monitoring is done in close collaboration with the WHO Alert and Response Operations program as part of WHO's event detection activities.

Working under the umbrella of the International Health Regulations (2005), the INFOSAN Secretariat facilitates the identification, assessment and management of food safety events of possible international concern. Collaborating closely with countries, INFOSAN Alerts may be developed and disseminated to network members. To help respond to country requests for assistance during food safety emergencies, INFOSAN can partner with the Global Outbreak Alert and Response Network (GOARN).

INFOSAN also works with the Global Early Warning System for Major Animal Diseases, including Zoonoses (GLEWS) to promote seamless action throughout the food-chain continuum.

For further information please contact:

Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses (FOS)
World Health Organization
Avenue Appia 20
1211 Geneva 27