Food safety

Food Safety News No 39

French cuisine

Food Safety News
No 39 - 3 August 2010

Issued by the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses
World Health Organization

In this issue:

  • Antimicrobial resistance
  • Leptospirosis
  • Codex Trust Fund Mid-term review
  • Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for Ractopamine
  • Global Environment Monitoring System - Food Contamination Monitoring and Assessment Programme (GEMS/Food)
  • Au revoir, Dr Schlundt!

Antimicrobial resistance

The Subcommittee on Health of the Congress of the United States of America held a hearing entitled "Antibiotic Resistance and the Use of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture" on Wednesday, 14 July 2010. The hearing examined the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals and its impact on human health.

The Good News: At the hearing, several witnesses in the medical and public health community voiced strong support for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) and for the Food & Drug Administration's new "Draft Guidance #209" on the use of antimicrobials in animal agriculture. In this guidance, the US Food and Drug Administration has recommended that the use of antibiotic growth promoters in food producing animals should be curbed to reduce the development of resistance to medically important antimicrobials. This is in line with existing WHO recommendations.

The Bad News: The general scientific agreement achieved over the last decade through more than fifteen expert consultations by the WHO seems to still be questioned by some. One recent example is a statement like: "Low doses , long-term use of antibiotics in animals is actually a net benefit to human health" (see Dr Randall Singer's testimony). Such statements undermine the basis for rational use of antibiotics and puts in question the WHO Global Principles for Containment of Antimicrobial Resistance in Animals Intended for Food: Low-dose antimicrobial 'treatment' of animals poses human health risk.


The Leptospirosis Burden Epidemiology Reference Group (LERG), convened as an advisory group to the Director-General of WHO, is tasked with quantifying and describing the leptospirosis burden in different populations, using summary measures of mortality and disability, such as disability-adjusted life years (DALYs). The report of the first meeting of the LERG held on 2–4 December 2009 is available at: The second meeting of the (LERG) will convene on 22–24 September 2010 to generate preliminary burden estimates based on the review of available evidence and on a draft transmission model that is currently being developed.
Contact: Bernadette Abela (Tel: +41 22 791 2072 - E-mail:

Codex Trust Fund Mid-term review

The Mid-term review of the Codex Trust Fund was tabled for discussion at the 64th Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) and at the 33rd session of the CAC. The first objective of the Trust Fund to increase physical participation in Codex has been well achieved and there was general agreement on a shift to emphasize Objectives 2 (Strengthening participation in Codex) and Objective 3 (Enhancing scientific/technical input to Codex). The recommendations of the mid-term review will now be considered by the FAO/WHO Regional Coordinating Committees and input from all discussions will be taken on board by FAO and WHO in deciding on the strategy and operations for the Trust Fund over the next six years. A copy of the Mid-term review can be found at:
For more information please contact Catherine Mulholland (Tel: +41 22 791 3080 - E-mail: Codex Trust Fund website:

Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for Ractopamine

Ractopamine is a drug that is used as a feed additive to promote leanness in pigs and cattle. It is approved as a growth promoter in several countries and banned in many others. Codex MRLs have been proposed and held at step 8 due to concerns raised by some members. Based on the request of the CAC, JECFA evaluated new data from China on ractopamine residues in pig tissues, and concluded that these new studies support the previously proposed MRLs for pig tissues, which are health protective. Despite this conclusion no consensus could be reached at the recent 33rd Session of the CAC. The CAC then accepted the proposal of the Chairperson to serve as a facilitator through a new approach, used in some organizations, called "Friends of the Chair", where selected delegations identified by the Chairperson work together to propose possible risk management solutions for consideration at the next CAC session.
Contact: Angelika Tritscher (Tel: +41 22 791 3569 - E-mail:

Global Environment Monitoring System -

- Food Contamination Monitoring and Assessment Programme (GEMS/Food)

GEMS/Food collects data on levels and trends of chemical contaminants in food ( In 2010, an ad hoc group of experts reviewed the process for data submission and use. The major recommendations of this group are to develop a web-based application to download standard file format such as XML or Excel; to reject submitted data not containing information critical for their interpretation; to generate standardized output to be used for communication of results and finally to use a food classification allowing to integrate more easily data on hazard occurrence, nutritional composition and food consumption.
Contact: Philippe Verger (Tel: +41 22 791 3053 - E-mail:

Au revoir, Dr Schlundt!

Jorgen Schlundt

After over 10 years in WHO, Dr Jørgen Schlundt, Director of the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, has taken up the position of Deputy Director of the National Food Safety Institute, at the Danish Technical University in Copenhagen, starting 1 August 2010. His new contact is: However, WHO's work on food safety will continue with new push from Member States, who have recently defined new directions for WHO's work on food safety (see Newsletter No. 38). For the time being Dr Danilo Lo Fo Wong has been designated to be acting Director with effect from 1 August 2010.
Contact: Danilo Lo Fo Wong (Tel: +41 22 791 3882 - E-mail: