The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is to organize a workshop later this year on the use of Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) for food safety management.

People have until Feb. 17 to apply for a place and FAO will select participants from 10 to 12 low- and middle-income countries.

The event is for government-sector professionals from low- and middle-income countries to discuss the application and integration of WGS into national food safety work.

In many developing countries, the understanding of the benefits and implications concerning the use of genome sequencing in food safety has been low, said FAO.

The UN agency said the COVID-19 pandemic changed the context around the use of genomic sequencing and its usefulness to detect, quantify and analyze microorganisms. Many people, including the general public and policymakers, have become familiar with terms such as the genome, PCR, variants, and sequencing.

A workshop at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy from April 18 to 20 will discuss the needs and practical applications of the technology to improve food safety. The event is in-person and no real-time streaming or online participation is planned.

Practical guidance will support understanding the use of WGS in food safety management, benefits, drawbacks, and challenges for countries with limited capacities and resources.

Experts named on the scientific panel
Meanwhile, the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) has announced its line-up for 2023 to 2027. A total of 93 scientific experts from 33 countries were selected in response to a call for applications in 2022.

The list features 20 people based in the United States including Arie Havelaar, William Burkhardt, Kathleen Gensheimer, Donald Schaffner, John Mark Carter, Clare Narrod, and Todd Callaway.

Members will be considered for JEMRA activities such as meetings, preparation of review papers, and peer reviews, according to the expertise required. They participate as individuals and not as representatives of their countries, governments, employers, or organizations. Experts are required to declare any potential interests associated with the subjects under consideration.

JEMRA provides scientific advice on microbiological hazards including risk management options aimed at improving food safety. 

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