The World Health Organization (WHO) is looking for a consultant to help with work on foodborne disease surveillance.

The appointed expert will support the Actions in Food Systems unit with development of a report on emerging topics related to foodborne infections.

A manual was published in 2017 to help countries strengthen national food safety systems. This document is being updated to include subjects such as whole genome sequencing, the use of new technologies, and innovative sampling techniques.

WHO estimates of the burden of foodborne diseases in 2010 showed that 31 hazards including viruses, bacteria, parasites, and chemicals caused 600 million illnesses globally and 420,000 deaths. These figures were published in 2015 and an update is planned for 2025.

Highlighting emerging issues
The present scarcity of reliable data on foodborne diseases in most countries is a major impediment for evidence-based interventions, according to WHO.

“A surveillance system employing sentinel sites and regional and international laboratory networks would be a major improvement in most regions. In addition, internationally agreed methods are needed for surveying foodborne diseases and linking them to food contamination on the basis of risk,” the organization reports.

The consultant needs to have five years’ experience working in foodborne disease surveillance or a related field and an advanced university degree in epidemiology, microbiology, public health, life science, food safety, or other similar areas.

Tasks include proposing a list of emerging topics in foodborne disease surveillance, coordinating the publication process and conducting literature reviews on the selected topics.

The role will start in July and run until the end of this year. To apply submit a resume and cover letter in PDF format to with the subject line: consultant foodborne disease.

Applications are open until June 10.

A public consultation on WHO’s draft food safety strategy is also ongoing with a deadline for comments of June 18.

Expert and data call for produce hazards
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and WHO plan to hold a series of meetings on microbiological hazards in fresh fruits and vegetables. The goal is to gather recent data, evidence and scientific opinions on the topic.

Fruits and vegetables are increasingly being implicated in food safety incidents around the globe. Fresh produce contaminated with foodborne pathogens have resulted in numerous outbreaks and trade disruptions, according to the FAO and WHO.

Specialists are wanted to take part in work of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) to assess the prevention and control of such hazards in these products. FAO and WHO also requested available data and information to support this work.

The meeting attendees will collect, review and discuss measures for controls of microbiological hazards from primary production to consumption in fresh leafy vegetables; ready-to-eat, fresh, and minimally processed fruits and vegetables; and sprouts.

Emphasis will be on the identification and evaluation of solutions to reduce foodborne illness associated with fruits and vegetables, considering their effectiveness and practicalities.

The call for data is to get more globally representative information on the prevention and control of microbiological hazards in fresh fruits and vegetables. It will be used to develop scientific advice on the topic.

Examples include surveillance data and records of foodborne outbreaks related to fruits and vegetables, efficacy of interventions such as irradiation and sanitizers, effectiveness of control measures such as GAP and HACCP practices, and recommended minimum distance between the contaminant and growing area.

Selection of participants will begin on May 31 and continue until enough candidates are identified. Data submission is ongoing with no deadline.

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