Food safety and quality
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Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) and food safety

Current activities

  • FAO facilitates an informal network of developing countries to share information, knowledge and experience in using WGS for food safety management. Participating countries include: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Botswana, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Iran, Mauritius, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Philippines, Sudan, Tanzania, Thailand, Vietnam (as of 20 March 2017, 20 people from 17 countries are participating). Contact Masami.Takeuchi@fao.org to join the network.

Past activities

General information

Genome sequencing can identify microorganisms with previously unknown accuracy; this unsurpassed capability together with declining operating costs will fundamentally change food safety management in the years to come. Genome sequencing is already established in the areas of plant/animal breeding, and in animal health to understand and characterize the pathogenicity of viruses. In the area of outbreak investigation of food-borne illness, certain high-income countries demonstrated great success in quickly and precisely targeting the source of the outbreak and limit the negative impact of the outbreak on public health and on trade.

Outside high-income countries, the level of understanding regarding benefits and implications concerning the use of genome sequencing in the area of food safety significantly varies. Particularly for developing countries, there are capacity, regulatory and resource implications to be considered. While several industralized countries have been moving forward with the technology, information on potential benefits, possible drawbacks, relevant challenges and considerations need to be analysed, with careful attention to developing and transitional countries with possibly limited capacity and resources.

It is a role of FAO's to keep all Members informed on the latest scientific developments in the food and agriculture sectors, and provide technical assistance to those who need it.

Key outputs

For more information, please contact WGS@fao.org.