14 May 2019
Safeguarding human health from harmful bacteria found in seafood is the focus of a three-day meeting hosted by the Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) at its laboratory in Weymouth, Dorset, UK, on the 13th-15th May. The event will bring together 14 international experts from 10 countries to review guidance on seafood food safety approaches.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) is convening the international Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment to update FAO/WHO global guidance, in light of state-of-the-art methods such as whole genome sequencing and remote sensing, to reduce public health risks from a group of bacteria called Vibrios, that can be found in some seafood, particularly in bivalve molluscs, (oysters, mussels, etc). Some species of this group, which includes the organism that causes cholera, are found naturally in warm seawater and can cause outbreaks of sickness, diarrhoea and occasionally fatal septicaemia.
Seafood, including fish, molluscs and crustacea, is an extremely important part of human diets around the world. In 2016 the FAO reported that the average annual consumption of fish and fishery products rose above 20 kg per person, doubling since the 1960s. The health benefits of having a diet rich in fish protein are well known, but like all food stuffs sometimes seafood can pose health risks, particularly if eaten raw or lightly cooked.
Dr Jeffrey LeJeune, representing the FAO and WHO said:
“Microbial risk assessment is a structured and transparent approach to determine the extent that foods pose a threat to health. In this regard, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) provides the scientific basis for development of international standards for food safety and fair practices in food trade. We are pleased to have this meeting hosted at Cefas to review and update the risk models, so that latest advances in science and technology are leveraged to inform strategies to lower the burden of disease caused by this important group of pathogens in seafood.”
Dr Rachel Hartnell from the Cefas Weymouth Laboratory and the head of the newly designated FAO Reference Centre for Bivalve Mollusc Sanitation, jointly funded by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said:
“We are honoured to be hosting, and to contribute scientifically, to this extremely prestigious meeting. Safeguarding human health and enabling food security are major pillars of Cefas’ mission and the outputs of this meeting will make a real positive difference to public health outcomes globally.”