The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued two more calls as part of work to estimate the burden of foodborne diseases.

WHO is seeking support from independent consultants or groups of experts with experience to undertake systematic reviews and other studies on foodborne illness.

The first area is a review and evidence gathering of data needed to estimate the global burden of aflatoxin B1 and M1. The second is systematic reviews of Taenia solium infection and cysticercosis. The deadline to apply for both topics is Oct. 31.

In 2015, it was estimated that there were 370,000 cases of neurocysticercosis caused by infection with Taenia solium. Neurocysticercosis is assumed to be solely foodborne on the basis that the disease would not exist if pork was not consumed.

There were also thought to be about 21,800 cases of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), caused by aflatoxin. HCC is a major cause of cancer deaths worldwide.

Expressions of interest for two other areas closed at the end of September. These covered diarrheal diseases and deaths caused by 14 pathogens commonly transmitted by food and attribution of the burden of disease to foodborne transmission and specific foods.

The WHO Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) is updating global estimates published in 2015. According to these figures, foodborne diseases caused 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths in 2010. FERG has already met three times in July and October 2021, and April 2022. A new report is expected in 2025.

Listeria meeting
Meanwhile, scientists are to meet at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in Rome from Oct. 24 to 28 to discuss work on Listeria.

The FAO and WHO have decided to hold a meeting to develop a farm-to-table risk assessment for Listeria monocytogenes in foods. The meeting will inform a possible future revision of Codex guidelines related to controlling the pathogen in food.

Matthew Stasiewicz from the University of Illinois, Jovana Kovacevic, at Oregon State University, Taran Skjerdal, of the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, and Laurent Guillier, from the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health Safety (ANSES) are among the experts.

The work will include leafy greens, cantaloupe, frozen vegetables, such as peas and corn, and RTE seafood where Listeria is able to grow, like gravad (sugar-salt marinated) salmon and halibut.

In 2020, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) looked at Listeria monocytogenes in RTE food to review recent data and assess the need to modify, update, or develop new risk assessment models and tools for the pathogen.

Scientists identified several gaps in the current risk assessment model and agreed updating it would help inform risk analysis strategies, including in low- and middle-income countries.

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