Joint WHO/FAO/OIE Technical Consultation on
BSE, Public Health and Trade
On 21December 2000, WHO organized a joint informal meeting of World Health Organization (WHO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Office International des Epizooties (OIE) with twelve consultants and with the participation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the European Commission (EC). The meeting discussed two issues which were clearly emerging for the public regarding Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) safety what is safe to eat? and is enough being done to protect human populations from exposure to BSE? The goal of the meeting was to determine if there was sufficient new science for a formal consultation, with a view toward providing updated information to assist our member countries and the public, particularly in non-EU countries.
The meeting participants concluded that while there are no new breakthroughs in science, there is a much higher level of awareness of the issues and high levels of concern from the public, and that these forces are driving country needs for evidence-based, independent information and advice to create good policy.
Several specific problems were identified:
A Joint Technical Consultation is warranted to pull this information together. We will work towards clear and workable recommendations for countries, particularly developing countries, to:
Goals of a Joint Technical Consultation
The principle goal of the consultation will be to provide better information to countries (especially those that dont have experience with BSE and vCJD) that require information to help them make their own risk assessment and determine if they may have already introduced or at risk of introducing the BSE agent. Those countries that do not have BSE in their native cattle populations require information to help them identify risks for BSE in other countries, notably those that, knowingly or unknowingly, could lead to the undesired importation of either BSE or vCJD risks. In addition, it is important from the international perspective that countries are prevented from exporting materials which they do not consume within their own boundaries and that could either seed BSE, or could cause vCJD. To this end, the conditions which should result in the prevention of exports from a country will also be reviewed.
A secondary goal is to provide a forum for the review of some of the most compelling problems in BSE control internationally. The Joint Technical Consultation will discuss and synthesize current knowledge on pathogenesis, epidemiology, distribution, likely course of the epidemics, prevention and control of BSE/vCJD.
The key policy and communications issues are as follows:
1. Reducing the risk for BSE and vCJD extensive international experience has accrued regarding the most significant activities to reduce the risk of BSE or vCJD; policies to minimize human exposure to BSE have been introduced (and evaluated) in many countries.
2. Global risk and global need for action - there is a global risk of BSE due to trade in live animals and certain bovine-tissue containing products; the global risk assessment will include information about global trade practices with the aim of highlighting potential high risk activities.
3. Risk assessment for vCJD and BSE It is essential that countries should not wait until their first case of vCJD or BSE before acting; there are some hypothesized risks in trade in meat and meat products, live animals and animal feed; countries without known BSE cases must conduct risk assessments and may require surveillance systems for BSE and vCJD.
4. Communication of Risk one of the largest problems has been the difficulties in communicating risks in the face of incomplete knowledge; the process of development of public policy through iterative processes has undermined public confidence.
The first two days will be spent in plenary presentations, with time periods for questions. The second day and a half will be spent alternating small working groups with joint sessions, ending with a joint session summarizing recommendations.
Proposed working groups (DRAFT)
June 11-14, 2001
By invitation only;
Information Dissemination (Draft)
Web site postings, background papers and information package, press communications.
Press conference; Technical report including the presentations