Food safety and quality

JEMRA Secretariat discusses future scientific advice needs


Earlier this week, the secretariats of the Joint Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) from both FAO and WHO met at FAO in Rome to discuss ongoing and future work. This is the first time that the secretariats from both organizations met physically since 2020 due to the safety measures of the pandemic.

The JEMRA team from FAO and WHO has been very efficient and productive since 2020. They convened four JEMRA and three ad hoc expert meetings virtually, published six technical reports, eight summary reports, one peer review paper and a brochure and infographic in six official UN languages.

However, to manage and address the rapidly developing global food safety issues, there was a need to have a meeting between the secretariats to focus exclusively on the delivery of the JEMRA work.

Based on the Codex requests and also the recent food safety issues caused by foodborne microorganisms, FAO colleagues and their WHO counterparts, Moez Sanaa, WHO Head of Standards and Scientific Advice on Food and Nutrition, and Haruka Igarashi, WHO Technical Officer, discussed several topics during the meeting:

  • The upcoming expert meeting on specific commodities of fresh fruits and vegetable (FFV). It will provide recent scientific evidence and approaches of control measurements to improve the microbiological safety of different commodities of FFV.
  • After JEMRA issued the Call for experts and data on Salmonella and Campylobacter, the meeting approach and plan were discussed to ensure a comprehensive and in-depth meeting.
  • In response to the recommendation from JEMRA to Codex on having a full risk assessment of Listeria monocytogenes, the call of this meeting will be launched very soon, and the risk assessment methodology was discussed.
  • The plan for expert meetings in the coming years, how best to communicate with Codex Committees and electronic working groups, the update of the 2018 to 2022 JEMRA roster, the status of upcoming reports, and the promotion of JEMRA work beyond the expert meetings.

“It was great to have this time together to better get to know each other and really reflect how we can positively contribute to the needs of Codex and our stakeholders, said Jeff Lejeune, FAO Food Safety Officer.

Kang Zhou, FAO Food Safety Officer, expressed appreciation for the “relentless dedication of the international experts who worked long hours, early mornings and late nights, to provide the most recent and sound science to support the important work of the JEMRA”. “Thanks to them,” he said, “ we were able to produce JEMRA reports to address the food safety issues from the international, regional and national perspectives, and more importantly to facilitate the international trade.”

Christine Kopko, FAO Food Safety Officer and secondee from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, is optimistic that this in-person meeting may be “the start to our new normal”. She said, “As the five of us met masked, across a large meeting room table that would have accommodated 20+ people in other times, future in-person expert meetings seem possible.” Markus Lipp, FAO Senior Food Safety Officer, was also able to join the Secretariat for part of the meeting.

The JEMRA has been part of the FAO and WHO jointly managed food safety scientific advice programme since 2000. It provides the scientific basis for the Codex Alimentarius, the world’s international food standard setting body. As Codex committees, particularly the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH), identify needs for microbiological risk management tools, requests are made to the JEMRA for scientific advice based on risk assessment.

Read more about JEMRA on the FAO site and the WHO site

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