A majority of consumers are interested in purchasing meat products that include biosensors that monitor pathogens, but their willingness to pay more for the intelligent packaging is dependent upon the perceived risk of foodborne illness, according to a recent study published in the International Journal of Consumer Studies.
For “The use of smart biosensors during a food safety incident: Consumers’ cognitive-behavioural responses and willingness to pay,” authors Giuseppe Nocella, et al, surveyed consumers using the protection motivation theory (PMT) to explore responses to risk communication in the absence and presence of a food safety incident. The surveys also gauged respondents’ willingness to purchase hypothetical meat products marketed with the biosensors.
The researchers surveyed consumers in the UK, with respondents assigned to one of three groups. Each group received a different risk message: In the No Risk Information (NRI) group, respondents did not receive any news on the food-safety incident; in the Low Risk Information (LRI) group, respondents were informed that there was a moderate health risk due to a food-safety incident; and in the High Risk Information (HRI) group, respondents were informed that there was a severe health risk due to a food-safety incident.
They found that respondents in the LRI and HRI groups (with no statistically significant difference between the two groups) were willing to pay more (£0.91; s = £0.72) for meat products with smart biosensors than those in the NRI group (£0.82; s = £0.68). The majority of respondents in both groups were willing to buy meat marketed with biosensors.
“Respondents who heard about biosensors developed using nano-technology were not willing to pay a premium for biosensors when risk information was not provided because they did not perceive the benefits of biosensors,” the authors concluded, noting that “Few consumers are aware of smart biosensors. There is a need of more cooperation on behalf of retailers and food manufacturers to increase consumers’ awareness about the benefits of smart biosensors.”
The U.S. Food and Agriculture (FA) sector is facing significant risks that require improved communication and collaboration between industry and government agencies. On July 13, the FDA, USDA and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released the 120 Day Food and Agriculture Interim Risk Review, which provides a review of critical and emergent risks to the FA sector, as well initial mitigation strategies, factors contributing to risk and proposed actions to address risks.
Risks identified in the review include:
Chemical, Biological, Radiological, & Nuclear (CBRN) Threats. CBRN threats are defined as “hazardous contaminants such as poisonous agents including toxic industrial compounds and materials, toxins, and chemical agents and precursors; natural or genetically engineered pests and pathogens of livestock, poultry, fish, shellfish, wildlife, plants, and insects; and physical effects of nuclear detonations or dispersion of radioactive materials.”
Initial Mitigation Strategies: Prevention of CBRN incidents may be achieved through expanding and enhancing existing physical security and administrative controls, including many food defense mitigation strategies, such as control of entry systems at critical points in production, processing, storage, and transportation, surveillance of critical points, pre-employment screening, and clear marking of employees who are authorized to be at critical points.
Cyber Threats. While these are not new risks, the review notes that as the food industry increases its dependence upon technology, including the move toward automation, precision farming and digital agriculture, the likelihood and severity of a crippling cyberattack increases.
Initial Mitigation Strategies: Some FA sector entities have assessed and mitigated cybersecurity vulnerabilities through entity-specific action, using and applying the National Institute of Standards and Technology Cybersecurity Framework or other actions. Future activities should include the reviewing and securing of interconnectivities between systems. To do this, all FA sector entities, both public and private, must improve their understanding of cyber threats and vulnerabilities and reduce their gaps in protection. Future efforts in cybersecurity in the FA sector should prioritize the sharing of information about cyberattacks, research into cybertheft of food and agriculture intellectual property, FA sector dependency on the energy sector and interdependencies within the FA supply chain. The review also highlights the need for funding for a program to assist small and medium size facilities to increase implementation of effective cyber security mitigations.
Climate Change: Natural disasters and extreme weather events, limited water resources, loss of pollinators and pollinator services, and increased exposure potential to pests and pathogens are among the threats to future agricultural productivity which may be exacerbated by climate change.
Initial Mitigation Strategies: Research on environmental hazards and degradation within the FA sector should include water use, irrigation system improvements, dryland management practices, and crop system utilization. Similarly, research targeting pollinator habitat, how climate change affects pollinators, pollinator forage, and pollination rates as it pertains to crop yield, and current and emerging pests and pathogens that negatively impact the optimal health outcomes of people, animals, plants, and their shared environments to include the health of pollinators is vital to long-term crop sustainability and food security. The use of improved monitoring systems, predictive modeling to inform surveillance, early warning systems, and better control options can help reduce the risk of pest and disease agricultural damage due to climate change.
Potential Factors Contributing to Risk
A “potential factor contributing to risk” is defined in the review “as features or operational attributes that render an entity open to exploitation or susceptible to a given hazard.” These include:
Food and Agriculture Industry Consolidation
Input Shortages, including labor, energy, IT/data, and consumables.
Aging and Insufficient Transportation Infrastructure
Gaps in Preparedness
The FDA, USDA and DHS developed a timeline of proposed actions, which includes short-, mid- and long-terms strategies to enhance strategic planning, understanding of FA sector risks, and information sharing and engagement. Next steps include:
Threat Assessment: Identify potential actors and threats, delivery systems, and methods that could be directed against or affect the FA sector. (60 days and annually thereafter)
120-Day FA Risk Review: Identify risks to the FA sector from all hazards, identify activities to mitigate risks categorized as high-consequence and catastrophic, identify steps to improve coordination and integration across the FA sector, inform ongoing development of the Federal Risk Mitigation Strategy. (120 days)
Vulnerability Assessments: Identify vulnerabilities within the FA sector in consultation with state, local, tribal, and territorial (FSLTT) agencies and private sector partners. (180 days)
Risk Assessment: Prioritize by the highest risks for the FA sector, implement benchmarking off of results generated from the CBRN Strategic Risk Assessment Summary. The first draft would focus on CBRN and cyber threats with later iterations to include other threats (e.g., energy disruption, pandemics, catastrophic weather events, consequences of climate change). (365 days)
Risk Mitigation Analysis: This will include high-level actions for mitigating threats, a proposed timeline for their completion and a plan for sharing information. The analysis will identify strategies, capabilities, and areas of research and development that prioritize mitigation of the greatest risks as described in the risk assessment, and include approaches to determine the effectiveness of national risk reduction measures. (545 days)
A Unifying Food and Agriculture Community Architecture
Recognizing the need for improved coordination and communication, and an over-arching framework to direct and maintain a consistent
approach to preparedness and response to high-consequence and catastrophic incidents within the FA sector, the review also includes a proposed “Food and Agriculture Resilience Architecture.”
The proposed Architecture represents an “integrated, whole-of-community and whole-of-government system of stakeholders and capabilities” approach to strengthening the readiness and resilience of FA sector.
In vitro diagnostics provider bioMérieux recently announced its plans to open a new, 32,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art molecular innovation center at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia. The new site will house the company’s xPRO Program, as well as the company’s Predictive Diagnostics Innovation Center.
The xPRO Program was created to speed development of advanced molecular diagnostics for food quality and safety departments in the food and beverage, nutraceutical and cannabis indsutries.
We spoke with Ben Pascal, head of xPRO at bioMérieux, about the program as well as the challenges and recent advances in the development of molecular assays and predictive diagnostics.
What is the xPro program?
Pascal: xPRO is an entrepreneurial engine for bioMérieux. We have had tremendous success with the molecular assays we’ve built over the years here, and we want to continue to invest in that innovation both in terms of the way we develop these assays, the speed with which we bring them to market, and we want to expand the partnerships that we’ve built with industry. All of these efforts are bolstered through the xPRO program and team.
What are some of the challenges in developing the molecular assays?
Pascal: In the clinical micro sector, you’ve got blood, saliva, and urine, and they are pretty uniform between everyone. When you come to the industrial micro sector, where you’re working with lettuce one day, ground beef the next and then nutraceuticals or spices, it is far more challenging to build a diagnostic that can work across all those matrices.
The challenge is how to create something that is compatible in multiple sectors, is faster and will deliver value over and over in a routine quality testing lab. Experience is crucial. Our team in Philadelphia has built and commercialized more than 30 molecular diagnostics, so we had the opportunity to put together a toolkit, if you will, to help us get through challenging matrices and speed things along with regards to recovery of target organisms.
When you talk about predictive diagnostics, is this related to gaining a better understanding of which pathogens are most likely to cause illness and at what levels?
Pascal: You do have these pathogens, but there’s a whole other concern related to spoilage. Day to day in the food and beverage sector, it’s spoilage that’s affecting quality and your brand reputation and causing recalls.
When it comes to pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses, one cell is typically the law of the land. But when we say predictive diagnostics, we are isolating unique genes that are 100% predictive of spoilage. We know there are certain organisms that cause spoilage, but not all organisms that spoil are created equal. So what we try to tease out through our genomic and predictive diagnostic center is which unique genes allow one bug within the same species to cause spoilage, while another does not.
Traditionally, a quality director on the floor will say, I have this organism. It might spoil it might not. We’re taking the risk out of the equation. If you have a potential spoilage organism and you know that it has the specific genes that create spoilage, you can make more informed decisions on what you’re going to do with your product in terms of releasing it or remediating it.
For example, in brewing there is a yeast called saccharomyces cerevisiae that is often used. And there is a variant of saccharomyces cerevisiae that has some genes that allow it to use up residual starches in the product to produce gas, which causes the cans to swell and burst.
The problem is, you can’t tell from a culture plate whether your saccharomyces cerevisiae has this variant diastaticus or not—and not all diastaticus will go on to chew up those residual starches as an energy source and produce gas. We’ve identified a unique set of genes, and every time those genes are there, that diastaticus will go on to produce gas and create quality issues. That’s what we refer to as predictive diagnostics.
When you talk about rapid diagnostic testing, can these tests be performed in the food or beverage facility?
Pascal: Yes, they take our equipment and utilize it at their site, whether that be a third party laboratory, the production site of a brewery, a food processing facility or a nutraceutical manufacturer. We manufacture the equipment and the reagents that we’ve developed, and we put that into a test kit that customers can purchase after we’ve installed the equipment at their production site.
Are there any specific food areas that you’re focusing on now?
Pascal: Some of our key focuses relate to beverages, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. We do quite a lot in nutraceuticals. We do quite a bit of work in cannabis, and in food safety, we’re focused on changing the game with regards to environmental monitoring. With environmental monitoring you’re looking for specific pathogens with the theory being, if you can control your environment, you can control what gets into your food products.
You’re typically looking for one of two pathogens: salmonella or listeria. We said, why not do them both together? And we created a universal medium. By providing specific data points for both pathogens within a single test, it can detect and enrich both salmonella and listeria from the environmental swab.
In all the work we do, our partnerships with industry are very important. The way that we build our pipeline is directly through partnerships with industry, which informs us on their key challenges as well as better ways to make tools. So, when we come out with a new tool, our goal is to not only meet the needs of our partner but meet or exceed the needs of their peers in the industry as well.
As regulatory bodies in the U.S. and around the globe prepare to accept cell-based food products into their markets, a new report, Food Safety Aspects of Cell-Based Food, sheds light on potential hazards posed by this new class of foods.
Published jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), the 146-page report includes country case studies from Israel, Qatar, Singapore, as well as findings and recommendations from a global technical panel of experts from academia and industry.
The panel identified 53 potential hazards that may be introduced during the Cell Sourcing, Cell Harvesting, Food Production and Food Processing Phases. All of which exist within traditionally produced foods, apart from:
The potential for expression of novel toxins, toxic metabolites, or allergens or a change in expression of toxins, toxic metabolites, or allergens as a result of genomic instability, genetic or phenotypic Instability, and / or induced through physical or biochemical stimuli during cell culture.
Physiochemical transformation of food components (i.e., altered protein structure, reactive species formation) due to food processing or storage. The panel notes that while this same hazard is present in conventionally produced food, cell-based foods may contain new inputs (e.g., scaffolds and residues) and processing ingredients that must be tested.
“Many hazards are already well-known, and they exist in conventionally produced food,” the reports reads. “For example, microbiological contamination can occur at any stages of any food production process, including those involved in producing cell-based food. The experts concluded, however, that most cases of microbial contamination during the cell growth and production stages would inhibit cell growth. If the cells have grown and reached product expectations for harvest, then occurrence of such contamination would be extremely rare during the production process, but it could occur post-harvest, as is the case with many other food products. Various existing prerequisite programmes such as good manufacturing and hygiene practices, as well as food safety management systems such as Hazard Identification and Critical Control Points (HACCP), are applicable to ensure food safety for cell-based food.”
The reports calls for additional research and funding to determine if cell-based foods could provide healthy, nutritious, and sustainable food for future generations, while reducing environmental impacts by using less land and water, emitting fewer greenhouse gases, reducing agriculture-related pollution, improving farm animal welfare and reducing the risk of zoonotic diseases that can spread from animals to humans.
Additional topics touched upon by the Technical Panel include the challenge of high production costs, the need for uniform terminology, potential regulatory frameworks for cell-based foods, and a need to further investigate consumer perception and acceptance (including taste and affordability).
Superheated Steam (SHS) may offer dry facilities a new, effective option to destroy pathogens on produce harvesting, processing, and packing tools. SHS differs from the visible, wet steam vapor emitted by a tea kettle in that it is invisible and acts like a hot gas at super-high temperatures. Applied to surfaces, SHS has been shown to kill pathogens without leaving moisture or condensation. However, little is known about its performance on a pilot scale.
She also plans to address other considerations, including cost, range of applications, wear and tear on equipment, changes to ambient relative humidity and worker safety.
“It’s a really tough problem to solve,” Dr. Snyder said. “We wanted to bring some practical assessments to our academic research to better understand whether these tools would be useful to the industry.”
Joining her as co-principal investigator is V.M. Balasubramaniam, Ph.D., with Ohio State University, who brings expertise in food and agricultural engineering. “He’s an important collaborator because the project is at the intersection of produce safety and process engineering,” said Dr. Snyder, whose background is microbial food safety. “This is an interdisciplinary approach to developing novel sanitation technology.”
The researchers are using portable pilot-scale roll-along and backpack units fabricated by a collaborating manufacturer. As part of the project, they reviewed Occupational Safety and Health Administration guidelines and developed worker safety and operator compliance training.
Initial trials looked at thermal distribution across stainless steel coupons—or discs—at ambient temperatures using three different coupon thicknesses and three different nozzle distances. Temperatures at the contact point ranged from 170 to 320 degrees C (338 to 608 degrees F), depending on nozzle distance. The researchers plan to conduct similar tests with concrete coupons as well as ones made of materials used in picking bags.
Although SHS doesn’t use large amounts of water, it is unknown whether prolonged use of the technology could change ambient relative humidity in enclosed spaces, depending on size and ventilation. As part of the project, Dr. Snyder said they will look at whether those relative humidity changes could potentially lead to condensation with extended SHS use. They also plan to characterize how rapidly temperature dissipates across surfaces.
One of the project’s objectives is to better understand how much the industry would be willing to pay for SHS technology. To that end, Dr. Snyder is conducting an online survey that proposes different scenarios.
Because SHS doesn’t use large amounts of water, the technology could offer the produce industry potential water savings in addition to more sanitation options.
The detection and mitigation of foodborne illness-causing pathogens continue to be a challenge for all aspects of the food industry from farm to fork. Join Food Safety Tech and the Center for Foodborne Illness Research and Prevention at the Fawcett Center at The Ohio State University on April 3-5 in Columbus, Ohio, for three days of food safety hazards education.
The Food Safety Tech’s Hazards Conference + CFI Think Tank brings together leading minds in industry and academia for two days of practical education on the detection, mitigation, control and regulation of key food hazards, followed by discussion geared toward identifying gaps for research and innovation. The program includes:
The USDA’s Proposed Approach to Salmonella Control in Poultry Products
Sandra Eskin, Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA
Sandra Eskin leads the Office of Food Safety at the USDA, overseeing the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which has regulatory oversight for ensuring that meat, poultry and egg products are safe, wholesome and accurately labeled. Prior to joining USDA, Eskin was the Project Director for Food Safety at The Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C. She also served as the Deputy Director of the Produce Safety Project (PSP), a Pew-funded initiative at Georgetown University from 2008-2009.
Salmonella: What We’ve Learned and Remaining Gaps in Detection and Mitigation
Dr. Masters is the Vice President of Regulatory Policy, Food and Agriculture at Tyson Foods, Inc., where she provides regulatory vision and support for food safety and quality policies and procedures. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Partnership for Food Safety Education and the Steering Committee for the Global Food Safety Initiative. Dr. Masters spent nine years as a Senior Policy Advisor at Olsson Frank Weeda, where she worked closely to advise with the meat and poultry industry to ensure regulatory compliance, and served as Administrator of the USDA FSIS.
The Legal and Financial Risks of Food Safety Hazards
Bill Marler, Food Safety Attorney, Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm
An accomplished attorney and national expert in food safety, William (Bill) Marler has become the most prominent foodborne illness lawyer in America and a major force in food policy in the U.S. and around the world. Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, has represented thousands of individuals in claims against food companies whose contaminated products have caused life altering injury and even death.
Shawn Stevens, attorney with the Food Industry Counsel, LLC
Stevens is a nationally recognized food attorney and founding member of the Food Industry Counsel who has dedicated his firm to “Going All-In for Food and All-Out for Those Who Produce It.” He works closely throughout the U.S. and abroad with food industry clients (including the world’s largest growers, processors, restaurant chains, distributors and grocers) helping them protect their brand by complying with FDA and USDA food safety regulations, reducing food safety risk, managing recalls, and defending high-profile food safety cases.
Mitigating the Risks of Salmonella and Listeria in Your Facility & Products
Sanjay Gummalla, Vice President, Regulatory & Technical Affairs, American Frozen Food Institute
Gummalla has broad industry experience in food science, food safety, and nutrition. He is in the forefront of coordinating Listeria monocytogenes prevention and control programs and policy efforts on behalf of the frozen food industry. Prior to joining the American Frozen Food Institute, Gummalla served as VP of product development at Zentis NA. He currently serves on key committees representing the industry, including advisor on the U.S. Agricultural Trade Advisory Committee for Processed Foods, a committee member on IAFP’s Journal of Food Protection, President of the Capital Area Food Protection Association, and chair of the International Food Science Certification Commission.
Rashmi Rani, Senior Manager of Food Safety and Quality Assurance, Schwan’s Home Delivery
Rani has more than 18 years of experience in the food and beverage industry. In her current role she manages food safety programs, QMS, SQF of Florence facility, USDA and FDA compliance, and training. She works with cross functional teams on continuous improvement projects including reduction of nonconformance product cost and rework cost reduction. Prior to joining Schwan’s, Rani worked with AB-Inbev, BakeCo, McCormick Inc. and Wornick food (Baxter’s North America).
Application of Ozone for Decontamination of Fresh Produce
Al Baroudi, Ph.D., Vice President of Quality Assurance & Food Safety, The Cheesecake Factory
In addition to his current role, Dr. Baroudi has conducted workshops, published White Papers and introduced the HACCP program to developing countries on behalf of the U.S. government. He is the recipient of Borden’s “President Award”, the Sani “Food Safety Champion Award”, and the “Outstanding Food Safety Program Innovation Award,” and the Southern California IFT “Distinguished Achievement Award.” In 2022, NR News named, Dr. Baroudi as one of the top 50 most influential restaurant executives in the country, and The NRA presented him their inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award for “Outstanding Leader in Food Safety.” He was instrumental in passing the Food Facilities Sanitization Bill “AB 1427” in the California State Assembly that cleared the way for the ozone to be approved in California Cal Code (2012).
Ahmed Yousef, Ph.D., Department of Food Science & Technology, Ohio State University
Dr. Yousef earned his Ph.D. in Food Science from University of Wisconsin-Madison. He worked as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before joining Ohio State as an Assistant Professor in 1991. Since the late 1990s, Dr. Yousef and his research team have worked to develop methods to pasteurize shell eggs and to decontaminate fresh produce while maintaining products’ fresh qualities. His ozone research led to developing methods to decontaminate spinach, apples, and other fresh produce. As a result of this research, Dr. Yousef established the largest ozone research laboratory in the U.S. at Ohio State.
Biofilm Prevention and Control Practices
Charles Giambrone, Food Safety Manager, Rochester Midland
Giambrone received his M.S. degree in Microbiology from Rutgers University in 1978, where his research focus was applied and environmental microbiology. In his current and previous roles as VP & Sr. Technical Support Manager for Rochester Midland Corp, he provides applied research and technical support in the whole area of food safety and sanitation including processing and preparation, membrane cleaning, and water treatment systems plus supervision of R & D projects. Giambrone has a broad and in-depth expertise in the areas of hygiene, disinfection, and biocides. This includes working with systems to remove or prevent biofilm formation in food processing and water system lines as well as other applications.
Despite best practices and vigilance, foodborne illness-causing pathogens will enter your facility. When they are detected, next steps are key to preventing contaminated foods from reaching consumers. In this webinar, we will look at how businesses can prepare for contamination events, and how to respond when an event occurs.
The Food Safety Tech’s Hazards Conference Series + CFI Think Tank, “Industry & Academia Advancing Food Safety Practices, Technology and Research,” will take place April 3-5, 2023, at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
The program brings together leading minds in industry, academia, standards and regulation to provide in-depth education and discussion on the most significant pathogenic and chemical risks facing the food industry today.
Building on the popularity of the Food Safety Tech Hazards virtual series, the in-person event will offer practical guidance and cutting-edge research on the detection, mitigation, control and regulation of the most significant foodborne illness risks.
The CFI Food Safety Think Tank on April 5 will bring food safety experts together to take a deeper look at the hazards discussed during the first two days of the conference. Participants will brainstorm in small groups to develop a roadmap on research, innovation, policy, and prevention measures that need to be taken to make our food supply safer in the future.
“Food safety hazards continue to be a challenge for all aspects of the food industry from farm to fork.” said Rick Biros, publisher of Food Safety Tech and director of the Food Safety Consortium conference and Food Safety Tech Hazards series. “The detection, mitigation and control of food safety hazards issues must be discussed among peers and best practices must be shared, something you can’t do virtually. The human connection is so important for conference attendees. Whether it’s a random connection over lunch, a one-on-one question with a speaker after a presentation or a seat next to a new friend in a learning session—connecting with others is what makes events so valuable. We are excited to bring this program, designed to help facilitate this much needed critical thinking and sharing of best practices, to OSU.”
Food Safety Tech is a digital media community for food industry professionals interested in food safety and quality. We inform, educate and connect food manufacturers and processors, retail & food service, food laboratories, growers, suppliers and vendors, and regulatory agencies with original, in-depth features and reports, curated industry news and user-contributed content, and live and virtual events that offer knowledge, perspectives, strategies and resources to facilitate an environment that fosters safer food for consumers.
About Food Safety Tech Hazards
Launched in 2020, the Food Safety Tech Hazards series brings together industry leaders, researchers and regulators to provide in-depth education and discussion on the detection, mitigation, control and regulations of the most significant pathogenic and chemical risks facing the food industry today.
For the past two years, Food Safety Tech, creator of the annual Food Safety Consortium conference, has been supporting FSQA professionals through its virtual Food Safety Tech Hazards Series.
Focused on the four core areas of food safety: detection, mitigation, control and regulation of risk, the series has addressed pathogens, pest control, and physical and chemical hazards facing the food industry.
The virtual conferences, which have attracted thousands of attendees, provide information on ongoing and emerging risks for both new and seasoned FSQA professionals, featuring speakers from industry, regulatory agencies and standards bodies.
In 2023, we are building on the popularity and success of these virtual events by expanding the Food Safety Tech Hazards Series to include two in-person events coming this spring and fall.
In 2022, salmonella– and listeria-related cases represented 37.4% of food and beverage product recalls, an uptick from 33.3% in 2021. “Food safety hazards continue to be a challenge for all aspects of the food industry from farm to fork.” said Rick Biros, president of Innovative Publishing Company, publisher of Food Safety Tech and director of the Food Safety Consortium conference. “The detection, mitigation and control of food safety hazards issues must be discussed among peers and best practices must be shared, something you can’t do virtually. The human connection is so important for conference attendees. Whether it’s a random connection over lunch, a one-on-one question with a speaker after a presentation or a seat next to a new friend in a learning session—connecting with others is what makes events so valuable. This year’s in-person events are designed to help facilitate this much needed critical thinking and sharing of best practices.”
“We look forward to bringing the Food Safety Tech Hazards series to an in-person audience in 2023,” said Inga Hansen, editor of Food Safety Tech. “This format will complement our virtual series and allow for the live discussion and networking that can only be achieved in person.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it is launching a global scientific process to update the list of priority pathogens to guide global investment, research and development of vaccines, tests and treatments.
The process began on November 18 with a meeting of more than 300 scientists who will consider the evidence on over 25 virus families and bacteria, as well as “Disease X.” Disease X is included to indicate an unknown pathogen that could cause a serious international epidemic. The experts will recommend a list of priority pathogens that need further research and investment. The process will include both scientific and public health criteria, as well as criteria related to socioeconomic impact, access, and equity.
The first priority pathogen list was published in 2017 and the last prioritization exercise was done in 2018. The current list includes COVID-19, Crimean-Cong hemorrhagic fever, Ebola virus disease and Marburg virus disease, Lassa fever, Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Nipah and henipaviral diseases, Rift Valley fever, Zika and Disease X.
“Targeting priority pathogens and virus families for research and development of countermeasures is essential for a fast and effective epidemic and pandemic response. Without significant R&D investments prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, it would not have been possible to have safe and effective vaccines developed in record time,” said Dr. Michael Ryan, Executive Director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme.
For those pathogens identified as priority, the WHO R&D Blueprint for epidemics develops R&D roadmaps, which lay out knowledge gaps and research priorities. Efforts are also made to map, compile and facilitate clinical trials to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostic tests. Complimentary efforts—such as to strengthen regulatory and ethics oversight—are also considered.
“This list of priority pathogens has become a reference point for the research community on where to focus energies to manage the next threat,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO Chief Scientist. “It is developed together with experts in the field and is the agreed direction for where we—as a global research community—need to invest energy and funds to develop tests, treatments and vaccines. We thank our donors like the U.S. government, our partners, and the scientists who work with WHO to make this possible.”
The revised list is expected to be published in the first quarter of 2023.
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