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Controlling Listeria: Working Towards International Harmonization


A conference organizing committee will be created from experts on campus plus external consultants from the USA and other countries representing government, academia and industry. Speakers from selected countries plus from the European Union and Codex Alimentarius Commission will be invited to present their positions. Information gathered from sessions at the conference will be synthesized into a document for distribution. This information will be used to work towards harmonization of international regulations and policies concerning LM and foodborne pathogens and to help establish an understanding of the potential risks to human health associated with LM. It will allow scientists, researchers, and extension specialists from around the globe to hear and exchange information about this vital and internationally crucial topic. Proceedings will be published in a peer reviewed journal and will be available on the NFSTC website. The final recommendations will be sent to key risk managers in countries with existing policies on listeriosis and to WHO and FAO representatives to transmit to other countries.

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NON-TECHNICAL SUMMARY: Listeriosis is an important foodborne disease that is managed differently around the world, and this hampers both reducing the disease and facilitating trade. The conference will engage a global dialogue that will develop how countries manage Listeria monocytogenes and explore ways to have better international harmonization.


APPROACH: Despite ongoing efforts, listeriosis, a bacterial foodborne infection caused by Listeria monocytogenes (LM), has become a human health and economic trade issue for many countries. Ready-to-eat foods, including meats, dairy products, seafood, vegetables, and fruit, are of particular concern because they can be contaminated and growth of LM can take place without a terminal decontamination step, and illnesses from these have resulted in the past. Currently there is no international agreement on acceptable levels of LM in foods, and LM regulations vary among individual countries. The proposed conference Controlling Listeria: Working Towards International Harmonization will focus on learning how countries attempt to control LM and the conference will engage a global dialogue that will explore how various countries manage the pathogen. Australia, Canada, Denmark, France, the United Kingdom and the United States will be specifically solicited because of their differing approaches to management of different commodities; these will provide insight into the relationship among consumer demand for particular foods, production practices, LM, and trade. Other representatives including those from developing countries in America, Europe, and Asia will be asked to attend and discuss their positions. As well, the spectrum of speakers and attendees will include multiple disciplines, academia, government, and industry. Specifically the conference will address critical questions in areas of prevalence, current and proposed regulations and standards, surveillance, risk assessment, risk communication, education and extension, and future harmonization of approaches.


PROGRESS: 2007/09 TO 2008/08<BR>
OUTPUTS: Listeriosis is considered both a human health and economic trade issue for many countries. Certain foods are more likely to be contaminated and cause illness than others. These have the potential for contamination with Listeria monocytogenes (LM), support the growth of LM to high numbers, are ready-to-eat (RTE) with no further decontamination step like heating; require refrigeration, and are stored for an extended period of time. Many outbreaks of RTE foods have been documented, and the incidence rate of LM in the US is about the same as in other industrialized countries, about 3-5 cases per million with a mortality between 20-30%. Currently there is no international agreement on acceptable levels of LM in foods, and LM regulations vary among individual countries, ranging from absence of Lm in ¡Ý25 g to 100 cfu/g. The following proposed conference will focus on learning how countries attempt to control LM. The conference plans to bring together experts from a variety of countries to share their information and approaches. They will work towards establishing harmonizing LM standards by understanding factors that influence policy, including surveillance, risk assessment, and mitigation strategies and education to reduce the risk of listeriosis, especially for high-risk populations. Discussions will allow audience input to the recommendations, and have an opportunity to evaluate the conference effectiveness. An organizing committee with external representatives is set up to assist in planning the event. There has been difficulty in finding US partners and the venue is likely to be in Europe where there is concern. One recent partner is Global Harmonization Initiative. The proposed conference date is May 4-6, 2009 in the Netherlands. <BR>PARTICIPANTS: Collaborators are Huub Lelieveld in the Netherlands and Cynthia Stewart at Silliker Laboratories in Illinois associated with the Global Harmonization Initiative, as as well as the publisher Elsevier in the the Netherlands. <BR>TARGET AUDIENCES: Governments of countries which produce ready-to-eat foods for domestic and export use. <BR><BR>
IMPACT: 2007/09 TO 2008/08<BR>
The conference has not yet been held, so there are no direct outcomes, but during the process of setting the conference up, new contacts were made with a international group, the Global Health Initiative Working Group, that has a very good fit with the goals of the conference. This Group has representatives of scientific organizations focusing on facilitating harmonization of food safety regulations and legislation. The objective is to discuss, globally, the scientific issues that buttress the decisions made by individual governments and international regulatory bodies in order to achieve global scientific consensus on such issues. The Global Harmonization Initiative Working Group anticipates that elimination of the regulatory differences will make it more attractive for the private sector to invest in food safety R&D, consequently strengthening the competitiveness of each nation's food industry and of the industries supplying the food sector. Harmonizing global regulations will facilitate the application of new technologies, encouraging the food industry to invest in such technologies to ensure better safety and quality for consumers.
<BR><BR>PROGRESS: 2006/09/01 TO 2007/08/31<BR>
OUTPUTS: An international committee was structured and venues and program content for the conference were discusssed. An international meeting of this kind would probably cost in excess of $80,000 if we were to obtain reperesentatives and speakers of countries that expoert and import ready-to-eat foods that can be contaminated with Listeria. As there was only $50,000 in the budget, partners were sought to share the costs and program content of the conference event. the first partnership sought was with Codex and a German delegation which met in June. This was too soon to have our conference but input from these discussions was sought (no report has yet been produced). The second approach was to work with the International Association for Food Protection to have a joint conference in Europe in the fall of 2008. Although this seemed promising in the summer, when the Board gave an official response in October it was not sympathetic although it agreed it was an important topic. The third approach is to work with the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Nutrition (JIFSAN) which seems to hasve an initial positive response. <BR>PARTICIPANTS: Ewen Todd, PD, who has coordinated the activities so far. He has worked with an advisory committee comprised of government scientists (Canada, Australia and the USA), USA food industry representatives <BR>TARGET AUDIENCES: The audience for the conference is government employees involved in policy and standard setting, industry representatives who prepare ready-to-eat foods, and academics who research Listeria and listeriosis.
IMPACT: 2006/09/01 TO 2007/08/31<BR>
The projected outcome is have a discussion of the different standards for Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods and if there can be any agreement for trade purposes. Cutrrently the US bans imported raw milk soft cheese. This conference will consider Listeria policies or standards by understanding factors that influence policy, particularly the importance of Listeria in comparison to other food risks, surveillance, risk assessment, and mitigation strategies including education to reduce the risk of listeriosis, especially for high-risk populations.

Todd, Ewen
Michigan State University
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