Food safety

Initiative to estimate the Global Burden of Foodborne Diseases

Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group

The Foodborne Disease Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (FERG) is composed of internationally renowned experts in a broad range of disciplines relevant to global foodborne disease epidemiology. Members were appointed by the WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan, following a transparent selection process. A complete list of FERG Members, technical and resource advisers can be accessed here.

The expert group is charged to:

  • assemble, appraise and report on the current, the projected as well as the averted burden of foodborne disease estimates;
  • conduct epidemiological reviews for mortality, morbidity and disability in each of the major foodborne diseases;
  • provide models for the estimation of FBD burden where data are lacking;
  • develop cause attribution models to estimate the proportion of diseases that are foodborne; and, most importantly
  • use the FERG models to develop user-friendly tools for burden of foodborne disease studies at country level.

To estimate the global human health burden (expressed in Disability-Adjusted Life Years (DALYs), FERG will initially focus on microbial, parasitic, zoonotic and chemical contamination of food with an emphasis:

  • on diseases whose incidence and severity is thought to be high.
  • on pathogens and chemicals that are most likely to contaminate food and which have a high degree of preventability.

Structure and Composition of FERG

FERG consists of a Core (or Steering) Group to coordinate and oversee the scientific work, four different Thematic Task Forces advancing the work in specific areas as shown in the figure below; and external resource and technical advisers who are invited on an ad hoc basis to provide specific expertise.

Diagram of the FERG structure.