The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) are set to hold an expert meeting on viruses in food later this month.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) event, at FAO headquarters in Rome on Sept. 18 to 22, will work on food attribution, analytical methods, and indicators of viruses in foods.

United States-based experts proposed for the meeting are Donald Schaffner, of Rutgers University; Xiang-Jin Meng, at Virginia Tech; Kali Kniel, from the University of Delaware; Lee-Ann Jaykus, at North Carolina State University; and Jacquelina Williams-Woods of the FDA.

In 2022, the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) asked JEMRA to provide scientific advice to inform a review of guidelines established in 2012. This was due to emerging issues associated with foodborne viruses and scientific developments.

Aims of first meeting
The main purpose of the past document was to give direction on how to prevent or minimize the presence of human enteric viruses in foods, especially Hepatitis A virus (HAV) and Norovirus.

It was applicable to all foods, with a focus on ready-to-eat food, from primary production through to consumption.

The guide also contains an annex on the control of Hepatitis A virus and Norovirus in bivalve mollusks and the same two agents in fresh produce.

JEMRA’s work will focus on reviews of the foodborne viruses and relevant food commodities of the highest public health concern; the analytical methods for relevant enteric viruses in foods and of scientific evidence on the potential of viral indicators or other indicators of contamination.

Experts will also look at the scientific evidence on prevention and intervention measures and the efficacy of interventions.

The provisional list of 23 scientists also includes Magnus Simonsson, director of the European Union Reference Laboratory (EURL) for foodborne viruses; Shannon Majowicz, from the University of Waterloo; and Joanne Hewitt, at Environmental Science and Research in New Zealand. 

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