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Preliminary Report of the ad hoc Expert Consultation on Risk assessment of Microbiological Hazards and Related Matters (Agenda Item 3)[3]

Process for Interaction between the Committee and the ad hoc Expert Consultations on Microbiological Risk Assessment
Amendments to the Terms of Reference for the Committee

14. The Representatives of FAO and WHO introduced this Agenda Item and informed the Committee that in response to the request of the 32nd Session of the CCFH for expert advice on risk assessment FAO and WHO have undertaken a joint programme of work on microbiological risk assessment. This work focussed on the first two pathogen-commodity combinations identified as priority issues by the 32nd CCFH - Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods and the Salmonella in poultry and eggs. The latter was divided into Salmonella Enteriditis in eggs and Salmonella spp. in chicken (broilers). The work carried out to date included hazard identification, hazard characterisation and exposure assessment. The final part of the risk assessment, risk characterization, will be carried out next year. It was pointed out that this risk assessment work was now at a critical crossroad and in order to proceed some specific risk management guidance was required.

15. A number of delegations expressed their appreciation for the body and quality of the work that had been undertaken by the joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultations in the past year. The Delegation of the US pointed out that clearly identifying the needs of the risk managers (i.e. CCFH) was the key issue to be addressed by CCFH. The Delegation of New Zealand suggested that the following areas be considered in the development of specific risk management questions - what is most useful to national governments; what is the programme of work of the CCFH; and are there trade related issues where risk assessment could be useful, for example in relation to equivalence or appropriate level of protection. The Delegation of France brought the Committees attention to CRD 19, which outlined the risk management questions proposed by the European Union. It was pointed out to the Committee that there was an Agenda Item relating to the management of L. monocytogenes in foods and that this be considered as a resource in formulating risk management questions.

16. Some delegations expressed concern regarding the ability of the FAO/WHO Expert Consultations to finalise a risk assessment next year considering that gaps in data still existed. In acknowledging this concern the Representatives of FAO and WHO assured the Committee that this work was a dynamic process whereby documents would be revised and updated, as more information became available.

17. The Representatives of FAO and WHO informed the Committee that the availability of data was one of the limiting factors in doing risk assessment and therefore, there was a need to generate additional data relevant to risk assessment. It was pointed out that during the past year accessing and collecting existing relevant data had been a particular problem. It was noted that one of the main reasons for this was the lack of mechanisms to collect and disseminate data available in different ministries and institutions. The Delegation of India referred to difficulties in collecting data in developing countries. It highlighted the need for assistance from FAO and WHO to generate these data and indicated that consideration should be given on how to improve data collection in both developing and developed countries. Some means of doing this might be to use regional centers, and the FAO and WHO regional offices. The Delegation of India futher emphasized the need to make the microbiological risk assessment studies based on global data so that conclusions reached and actions to be taken were appropriate and available for all countries. The Delegation of Philippines pointed out that countries had difficulties in collecting data if their food safety policy did not include provision for this.

18. The Representatives of FAO and WHO provided the Committee with some examples of possible risk management questions for consideration by the risk assessors. In order to discuss this issue in a comprehensive manner and develop specific risk management questions an ad hoc Working Group, open to all delegates, was convened. The output of this working group was discussed in plenary and the following questions and recommendations put forward to the Joint FAO/WHO ad hoc expert consultations on microbiological risk assessment through FAO and WHO.

Questions and recommendations from the risk managers to the risk assessors for Listeria monocytogenes in ready to eat foods

19. The Committee identified other risk management questions which could be addressed by the expert consultations at a future date. These included estimating the change in risk likely to occur from specific interventions and evaluating the effect of strain variation of L. monocytogenes on the risk estimates.

Pathogenic Salmonella in chicken (broilers) and eggs

20. The Committee suggested that a useful approach for this pathogen-commodity combination would be the use of risk assessment to estimate the relative risk, which would focus on the change in risk relative to interventions rather than the risk estimate. Management interventions could then be ranked according to the decrease in risk resulting from the intervention.

Risk management questions for Salmonella Enteritidis in eggs

Risk management questions for Salmonella spp. in chicken (broilers)

21. The Committee noted that a future question to be addressed in relation to pathogenic Salmonella in chicken (broilers) and eggs could be to model a range of risk reduction measures to facilitate risk management options assessment (this would not include cost-benefit analysis).

22. The Committee recommended that risk estimates for pathogens should always consider susceptible populations and suggested that the ad hoc expert consultations prioritize the gaps in data according to their importance in reducing the uncertainty of the risk estimates. The Committee acknowledged the need to finalize the current documents, and in addition, FAO and WHO should provide a means to update these risk assessments as new information becomes available.

Priority issues for future work

23. The representative of FAO reminded the Committee that the 32nd Session identified a number of priority issues for which it required expert risk assessment advice and suggested the revision of that list to take into consideration new food safety issues that may have arisen in the interim. FAO and WHO will consider this list in planning its future work. However, resource availability will affect the rate of progress of the work. It was suggested that Member Countries could assist in this process by hosting these expert consultations.

24. The Committee was of the view that the risk management questions to be addressed for Campylobacter in chicken (broilers) should be the same as those for Salmonella spp. in chicken (broilers) and suggested that a risk profile could be carried out to focus the work before embarking on the risk assessment. The Delegation of the US informed the Committee that it has completed a risk assessment of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in oysters and is willing to assist the ad hoc expert consultations. The European Community proposed that a separation be made between crustaceans, which are usually cooked before consumption, and bivalve molluscs which are filter feeders and can be eaten raw and to extend the work on microbiologial risk assessment to other pathogenic vibrios such as V. vulnificus. Other priority issues identified by the Committee included quinolone resistant Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry and histamine in fish. To better define future work, countries were encouraged to provide background information when they propose a pathogen-commodity combination for the consideration of the FAO/WHO ad hoc expert consultations.

25. However, the Committee recommended that any new work undertaken should not delay the progress of the current work.

Process for Interaction between the Committee and the ad hoc Expert Consultations on Microbiological Risk Assessment

26. The Secretariat informed the Committee that currently this matter fell outside the Terms of Reference of this Committee. However several delegations expressed the view that a process for more frequent interaction between the CCFH and the ad hoc expert consultations on risk assessment needs to be considered. The Delegation of the US introduced CRD 6, that presented as a suggested process for interaction between the CCFH and the ad hoc expert consultations. The Committee agreed to inform the CAC of its needs in this area.

27. In the absence of a formal process for interaction the following options could be used in the interim:

Amendments to the Terms of Reference for the Committee

28. The Delegation of the US introduced CRD 7 to consider additional terms of reference for the Committee to facilitate its undertakings in the area of microbiological risk assessment. The Committee noted that, to date, the area of microbiological risk assessment and microbiological risk management were not specifically addressed in any of its Terms of Reference and that the work in these areas had been handled via Term of Reference “e”, through the approval of specific work items by the CAC.

29. The Committee acknowledged that the work in the area of microbiological risk assessment and risk management was very important internationally, in both protecting health of consumers and facilitating trade and it was likely that the Committee would have significant work in this area in the future. Therefore, the Committee expressed the need to amend its Terms of Reference to reflect this situation. These should address the relationship between the FAO/WHO Expert Consultations on Microbiological Risk Assessment (and any other body that may arise from them) through FAO and WHO and the Committee, and microbiological risk management activities the Committee may undertake.

30. The Committee agreed to ask the General Principles Committee to consider the amendment of additional Terms of Reference (see Appendix III to this report).

[3] CX/FH 01/3, CRD 6 (comments of USA), CRD 7 (comments of USA), CRD 13 (comments of Finland), CRD 14 (comments of China); CRD 19 (European Community).

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