Food hazards from around the world data visualisation competition

A data visualisation competition organised between The Jean Golding Institute and the Food Standards Agency (FSA)

The challenge 

Every day the Food Standards Agency receives alerts from around the world about food products that have been found to be hazardous to human health, from salmonella in chicken to undeclared peanuts to plastic in pickles. Sometimes these products make it to our shelves in the UK andhave to be recalled or withdrawn. But with so much data on food hazards at our fingertips, we want to be proactive in identifying potential hazards to UK consumers, before anyone buys a hazardous product.  

The data

The FSA made available a dataset of food alerts, which have all been collected from open data sources (available as a single .csv file), accessible here - FSA data competition 2020

  • There are over 37,000 alerts (rows) from over the last four years
  • The alerts are from 40 sources (from around 30 countries) and translated if they are not in English
  • Each alert includes publication date, country, product type, hazard type, a link to the webpage of the original alert and other metadata. Please see the full data dictionary for explanation of all columns.

What were we looking for?

We were looking for data visualisations that help us to understand how this dataset might alert us to food risks. Visualisations may be based on questions like:

 Which products, from which countries, pose the greatest risk to consumers?

  • The frequency of alerts varies with time, and between countries; some of this variation is seasonal, but sometimes there are more or fewer alerts than we might expect. Do these divergences tell us anything about food risk? Are they correlated with external events that might affect the capacity of enforcement agencies, such as a pandemic outbreak or political instability?
  • How are alerts connected to each other? Now that we have data that has been accumulated over a period of time and can see groups of alerts, what can this tell us about risk?
  • Can we detect any consistent patterns in the way alerts move across countries? Which alerts might act as an early warning of an impending threat to UK food safety?

The winners

The winner, who received £1,000 in prize money, was Robert Eyre, PhD studentDepartment of Engineering Mathematics with his visualisation FSA related alert tracker.

The visualisation is a dashboard that allows the FSA to identify threats that are related. Once an article about a threat has been chosen, you can see where on the map, and where in time related threats happened.

Two runners-up each receiving £250 are Marina Vabistsevits & Oliver Lloyd and Angharad Stell.

Marina and Oliver received runner up for their visualisation, ‘Too much tooty in the fruity: Keeping food safe in a post-Brexit Britain’ A brief exploration of the UK’s reliance on the EU for food safety, and the related challenges that Brexit may bring.  

Angharad received runner up for the visualisation From a data space to knowledge discovery An interactive plotting app that allows exploration and visualisation of the dataset. 





Blog announcing winners

Find out more about the winning data visualisations in our blog

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