ILSI Southeast Asia Region
Bringing you monthly news and information on nutrition and food safety issues relevant to our region
Nutrition, Food Safety and Health

MARCH 2014


Workshop and Roundtable Discussion on Food Safety and Standards


On March 4-5, 2014, ILSI Southeast Asia Region and ILSI Japan, in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration, Ministry of Health, Myanmar, organized the ‘Workshop and Roundtable Discussion on Food Safety and Standards’ in Yangon, Myanmar. The meeting was supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Japan, as part of the ongoing ILSI Japan/MAFF Project on ‘Investigation of Commodity Food Standards and Methods of Analysis in Asia’, which is a joint effort among ILSI Asian branches.

The primary objective of the workshop and roundtable discussion in Myanmar was to provide support and capacity building to CLMV countries of ASEAN (i.e. Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam) in relation to improvement of food control systems and food safety standards. The workshop and roundtable discussed a number of topics including regulatory frammewors and key challenges for food safety in ASEAN, the risk assessment of food additives, import and export controls for food safety, as well as risk communication and consumer education on food safety.

Representatives from the CLMV countries also provided updates on their respective national food safety regulatory systems. They subsequently participated in a group exercise to identify some of the key priority areas in need of further capacity building in order to improve food control systems in their countries. Among the needs identified include practical training in risk assessment methodologies for chemicals in food, the development of national food consumption data to support dietary exposure assessment work, as well as guidance on risk-based categorization of food establishments.

The outcomes of the workshop and roundtable discussion will provide ILSI Southeast Asia Region with further direction in planning food safety capacity building activities in ASEAN, especially for the CLMV countries.
Photos from the meeting can be found on the ILSI Southeast Asia Region Flickr page here.


Microbiological Criteria - International Updates and Activities

The 44th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) completed its work to revise the ‘Principles and Guidelines for the Establishment and Application of Microbiological Criteria’ (CAC-GL 1997), which was previously developed in 1997. The document provides guidance on the multiple uses of microbiological criteria to assist in food safety management activities, as well as outlines the general principles, components and considerations for its establishment and application.

The new guidelines also provide a clear description of the relationship between microbiological criteria and other microbiological risk management metrics, such as Performance Objectives (POs) and Food Safety Objectives (FSOs), as well as the Appropriate Level of Protection (ALOP). Much of the early work to describe and explain these concepts was developed by the International Commission on Microbiological Specifications in Food (ICMSF), which published a paper on this topic in the journal Food Control in 2009. An author’s copy of the paper can be found on the ICMSF website here.

To support the use of the new Codex guidelines on microbiological criteria, particularly among ASEAN countries, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (FAO-RAP) recently organized a Regional Training Course on ‘Establishment and Application of Microbiological Criteria’ in Hanoi, Vietnam, on November 16, 2013, in conjunction with the 45th Session of the CCFH. Further information and presentation slides from the training can be found here.

US FDA Draft Methodology for Designating High-Risk Foods

As part of the provisions relating to product traceability under the new US Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the US FDA has been tasked to establish rules for additional recordkeeping requirements for designated “High Risk Foods”. This is intended to facilitate the rapid and effective identification and removal of potentially unsafe food from the supply chain. In order to implement this requirement, the US FDA has recently developed a draft methodology for designating “High Risk Foods”, which is currently open for comment.
The draft methodology applies a semi-quantitative risk-ranking approach using the following criteria, which have been based on factors outlined by the FSMA:

  1. Frequency of outbreaks and occurrence of illnesses

  2. Severity of illness, taking into account illness duration, hospitalization and mortality

  3. Likelihood of contamination

  4. Growth potential/shelf life

  5. Manufacturing process contamination probability/intervention

  6. Consumption

  7. Economic impact

Depending on the food-hazard combination in consideration, one or more of these criteria would be applied, each of which would then be scored accordingly to obtain a final risk score that could be used to guide the designation of “High Risk Foods”. Relevant data for each criteria would be necessary in order to operationalize this methodology.

Searching for "Zero" Risk in Food Safety - Its Problems and Challenges

A series of research papers on the issue of “zero tolerance” as it relates to rules and policies on food safety and quality have been published in a Special Section of the April 2014 issue of the journal Food Policy. The impact in relation to the application of “zero tolerance” policies to a number of food safety issues, including microbiological hazards in cheese, chemical residues in shrimp and genetically modified organims, are analysed through several case studies. Other aspects including societal expectations, cultural perspectives and risk perceptions, which may influence the setting of “zero tolerance” food safety policies are also discussed by several authors. The introductory paper to the Special Section by Wilson and Worosz (2014) can be found here.

White Paper on Current and Future Development and Use of Molecular Subtyping

The USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) recently published its white paper on the ‘Current and Future Development and Use of Molecular Subtyping by USDA-FSIS’. The paper describes the existing subtyping methods applied by USDA-FSIS for its regulatory and surveillance activities. It also elaborates on how data generated using such methods can be used for verification of food safety assurance systems and to support foodborne disease outbreak investigation at both the domestic and international levels (e.g. collaboration through Pulsenet International). Further discussion is provided on the development of new subtyping methods that could further improve upon the accuracy and efficiency of existing methods.

At the international level, the World Health Organization also provides support to capacity building efforts in the use of molecular subtyping methods for foodborne disease surveillance by national governments, through the Global Foodborne Infections Network (GFN), which comprises 11 partners and 6 regional centres.


April 10-11, 2014

ILSI Southeast Asia Region Annual Meeting & Scientific Symposium

May 2-3, 2014
8th Congress of the International Society of Nutrigenetics/Nutrigenomics
Gold Coast, Australia

June 12-13, 2014
Food Innovation Asia Conference
Bangkok, Thailand

June, 2014
Seminar on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition
Jakarta, Indonesia

September, 2014
11th ASEAN Food Safety Standards Harmonization Workshop
Vientiane, Lao PDR

October 8-9, 2014
Regional Conference on The Gut, Its Microbes and Health

November, 2014
Seminar and Workshop on Food Allergens - Science and Challenges for Southeast Asia
Bangkok, Thailand (TBC)

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