Food safety

WHO FERG Stakeholder Meeting 2010

Estimates and Expectations - Another Year of Firsts for the FERG

Each year of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) has been marked with significant progress and growth. Now in year four, this tradition remains true. Stakeholders, experts and members of the WHO Secretariat gathered for the fourth annual FERG Stakeholder Meeting in Geneva, Switzerland on 11 November 2010 to hear about the progress of the past year and get a glimpse into prospects for the future.

More results are in

Commissioned scientists presenting preliminary results
WHO/P. Abensur
Commissioned scientists presenting preliminary results

Commissioned scientists presented more preliminary findings in two areas: alflatoxins and foodborne trematodes. Aflatoxins are toxins produced by fungi that affect maize, peanuts, almonds, pistachios and hazelnuts. The preliminary estimates show that aflatoxin-induced liver cancer cases could be in the thousands globally each year. Most of these cases occur in poor countries where the foodstuffs previously mentioned are staple crops.

Foodborne trematodes are parasitic worms that are transmitted through eating infected fish and shellfish. In nineteen countries alone (covering 20% of the world population), the number of infections could be in the millions and deaths in the thousands, all of which are preventable.

These estimates are still preliminary and need refinement, but they reinforce the picture last year's early results presented on the real global impact of foodborne diseases - this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Taking it to the countries: pilot country studies set for early 2011

Stakeholders exchanging ideas in working groups
WHO/P. Abensur
Stakeholders exchanging ideas in working groups

After a rigorous selection process to assess countries who expressed an interest in conducting a pilot burden of foodborne disease country study, Albania, Japan, Uganda, and Thailand were chosen for the first round of pilot studies.

These burden of disease studies will not only complement the global burden picture, but they will also enable countries to conduct the studies themselves and increase ownership of the data. A major component of these studies is a policy analysis that will foster that use of burden data in food safety policy- and decision-making.

The Stakeholders have spoken again - and FERG is still listening

Stakeholder Panellists
WHO/P. Abensur
Stakeholder Panellists (from left to right)
David B. Schmidt - International Food Information Council, Jean Kamanzi - World Bank, Barbara Freischem - International Federation for Animal Health

The FERG Stakeholder Meeting 2010 brought many returning participants along with many new potential collaborators. Through interactive panel discussions and lively debate, stakeholders had the opportunity to make themselves heard and provide input into the work of FERG, especially in the areas of the preliminary results and the country studies.

As in previous years, the FERG will appraise and incorporate the rich input received from the stakeholders into its future planning and implementation. The input relating to communicating the results of the FERG and the forthcoming pilot country studies will be especially valuable for future endeavors.