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Experts gather to help tackle foodborne viruses

29 February 2016  •  Author(s): Victoria White

More than 130 leading experts on viruses in the food chain have taken part in the first International Workshop on Foodborne Viruses.

foodborne viruses

The event was organised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to gain a further understanding of foodborne viruses and to identify key research priorities .

Bacteria like E.coli and campylobacter are more usually associated with food poisoning but viruses have been increasingly recognised as important causes of outbreaks. The most recent data available shows they were responsible for 19% of all foodborne outbreaks in the EU causing more than 1,000 outbreaks and affecting about 8,700 people. The total number of foodborne outbreaks caused by viruses has been increasing since 2007.

“Knowledge gaps”

Professor Guy Poppy, Chief Scientific Adviser at the FSA said: “Foodborne viruses present many challenges and this meeting has provided an excellent opportunity to identify the key research priorities that will impact on public health in Europe. This is just the start and we will need to work together internationally to target our resources to make progress in this increasingly important area.”

Dr Marta Hugas, Head of Biocontaminant Unit at EFSA, said: “In a world where the movement of food and people is on the increase, a collaborative, international approach is the most effective way of identifying the areas of research needed to address the risks posed by foodborne viruses. That’s why this workshop, which brought together leading experts from across the world, is so important.”

Foodborne viruses is an area where a number of knowledge gaps still remain. The FSA’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food recently reviewed the evidence on viruses in the food chain. The report, published in March 2015, makes a number of recommendations on Norovirus, Hepatitis A and Hepatitis E.

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