Food safety

Food Safety News No 37

Street vendors
WHO/F. Fontannaz

Food Safety News
No 37 - 16 April 2010

Issued by the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses
World Health Organization


  • Food Safety at the World Health Assembly, May 2010
  • Work progress of the WHO initiative to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases
  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • New publications available on the web

Food Safety at the World Health Assembly, May 2010

The WHO Executive Board (EB) in January forwarded a resolution on "Advancing food safety initiatives" to the 63rd World Health Assembly (WHA) to be held 17-21 May 2010. A WHA resolution defines the general direction of WHO's work, and since the last WHA discussion of food safety dates back to 2000, the input from Member States is now very important.

In many countries the direct responsibility for food safety is shared among several Ministries, while it is the Ministries of Health (MoH) that participate in the WHA. Therefore, it is important that all partners are aware of this upcoming discussions and take the opportunity to effectively brief the national MoH on this topic.

The proposed resolution contains clear directions to strengthen WHO's food safety work in relation to: a) building INFOSAN, adding food safety data-generation and data-sharing to its portfolio, b) monitoring and reporting on the burden of foodborne and zoonotic diseases, c) advancing the provision and sharing of international scientific advice, and d) focusing on the public health aspects of zoonotic diseases originating at the human-animal interface.

Information about the draft WHA resolution is available at:
Read more about the 2010-2011 directions of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses (FOS) activities at:
Contact: Jørgen Schlundt (Tel: + 41 22 791 3445 – E-mail:

WHO initiative to estimate the global burden of foodborne diseases

Two FERG Task Forces met in conjunction with the Food Safety Education Conference in Atlanta, Georgia in March 2010: The Source Attribution Task Force which advanced the work in the area of attributing foodborne disease burden to food sources, and the Country Studies Task Force which is in the process of developing protocols to conduct burden of foodborne disease studies at country level. The Country Studies Task Force included for the first time a special sub-group on policy analysis which is composed of experts in the area of food safety policy and which works to ensure that the scientific results of the burden efforts are translated into policy at country level.

Read more about FERG at:
Contact : Claudia Stein (Tel: +41 22 791 3234 -E-mail:

Antimicrobial resistance

The WHO Advisory Group on Integrated Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance (WHO-AGISAR) supports WHO's effort to minimize the public health impact of antimicrobial resistance associated with the use of antimicrobials in food animals. AGISAR comprises over 20 international experts appointed following a web-published call for advisers, and a transparent selection process. The first meeting of AGISAR was held in June 2009 with the purpose to update the WHO list of Critically Important Antimicrobials and to achieve a draft strategic framework for WHO activities on containment of food-related antimicrobial resistance.

The report of this meeting is available at:
Contact: Awa Aidara-Kane (Tel: +41 22 191 2403 - E-mail:


The 72nd meeting of JECFA was held in Rome, 16-25 February 2010, to evaluate the health risk of six food contaminants: acrylamide, arsenic, deoxynivalenol and its metabolites, furan, mercury and perchlorate. The Committee made recommendations regarding possible health impacts, estimated dietary exposure and identified the main contributors to exposure, in order to advise risk management decisions. The summary report of the meeting has been published and is accessible under: [pdf]
Contact: Angelika Tritscher (Tel: +41 22 791 3569 - E-mail:

New publications available on the web

Report and Monographs of the 71st JECFA meeting on the safety assessment of a number of food additives available at:

The report of the 2009 JMPR meeting has been published and is available from the web: Pesticide residues in food - 2009. Report of the Joint Meeting of the FAO Panel of Experts on Pesticide Residues in Food and the Environment and WHO the Core Assessment Group. FAO Plant Production and Protection Paper, 196, 2009.