A global food standards-setting body has made progress on a range of issues, including E. coli in sprouts and vegetables, Vibrio in seafood, and food hygiene in traditional markets.

The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, addressed the outstanding parts of guidelines adopted in November 2023 at the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The annexes for fresh leafy vegetables and sprouts to the guidelines for controlling Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in these products are scheduled to be adopted at the next Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in November 2024. Guidelines for STEC control in raw beef, raw milk, and raw milk cheeses were previously approved.

The Guidelines for the Safe Use and Reuse of Water in Food Production included an annex on dairy products, which was passed on to the next Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting. However, the annex on fish and fishery products needs more work.

Vibrio, traditional markets, and other potential areas
The Committee agreed to forward the proposed draft revision of the Guidelines on the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to control
pathogenic Vibrio species in seafood. However, issues remained around water-related wording and definitions.

The document will guide controlling pathogenic Vibrio in seafood to protect consumers’ health and ensure fair trade practices. The primary purpose is to highlight key control measures that can be used to minimize the likelihood of illness. It includes an annex on bivalve mollusks such as clams, oysters, and mussels.

Proposed draft guidelines for food hygiene control measures in traditional food markets were also submitted to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for adoption. These guidelines are intended to provide guidance in developing and implementing policies and regulations to ensure that these markets are designed and managed effectively to promote food safety.

New work was put forward on revisions to the Guidelines on the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Viruses in Food, Guidelines for the Control of Campylobacter and Salmonella in Chicken Meat, and Guidelines on the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Foods.

Canada and the Netherlands will lead the electronic working group on the virus work. The United States, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, and India will handle the Campylobacter and Salmonella revisions, and the United States, Canada, China, and France will head the work on Listeria. These plans must be agreed upon at the next Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting.

The next Codex Committee on Food Hygiene meeting in the United States is planned for late 2025. Next on the agenda is the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods meeting in Panama later this month.

WHO FERG estimates
In other news, the World Health Organization is updating estimates on the national, regional, and global burden of foodborne diseases caused by selected hazards. WHO is advised by the Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG), which held its seventh meeting in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, in February.

In the 2015 publication, figures were based on 2010 data. It is unclear what the baseline year will be for the revised estimates published in 2025.

A list of hazards, for which estimates will be generated for reporting toward the end of 2025, has been agreed. It includes 14 diarrheal disease agents, eight non-diarrheal disease agents, 11 parasites, and eight chemicals and toxins. New hazards include Aflatoxin M1, Cyclospora, rotavirus, and Enteroaggregative E. coli.

Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands was commissioned to lead work on a global structured expert elicitation study to attribute the burden of foodborne transmission and specific foods. Sciensano, the Belgium Institute for Health, is supporting WHO on the computational side of estimating the burden of foodborne infections.

The World Bank and WHO are also updating estimates on the economic burden of foodborne diseases, which were published in 2019.

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