At this meeting the group considered the issues of viruses and consumer awareness, and the minimum data set requirements for norovirus surveillance. Members also discussed the structure the Groups report and reviewed their work programme.
2. Viruses and consumer awareness
The group considered a paper which highlighted the current Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Health Protection Agency (HPA) advice to consumers on viruses. The FSA’s guidance is available via the NHS Choices website. The advice covers how to prepare food safely as well as providing advice on household germs, fish and shellfish, eating shellfish during pregnancy and on norovirus prevention, including tips on how to stop the virus from spreading. The HPA’s guidance included a background to norovirus shellfish consumption and the risk of norovirus infection – frequently asked questions. The Group discussed the available advice and highlighted areas for improvement. The need for consistency in the advice available for consumers was discussed.
3. Minimum data set requirements for norovirus surveillance
It was highlighted that the UK does not carry out surveillance on all gastrointestinal diseases, as the HPA is moving away from looking at all gastrointestinal disease to a more targeted approach according to requirements. The Group noted that there are two surveillance systems for infectious intestinal disease, one for foodborne and non-foodborne disease caused by zoonoses and the other for specifically collecting information on norovirus outbreaks in hospitals. Members were informed that the HPA revamped its database in 2010 to bring it in line with the agreed European Food Safety Authority expert group’s minimum dataset requirements.
It was acknowledged that it is difficult to identify norovirus outbreaks partly due to the short nature of the illness, which means people tend not to report to general practice. It was highlighted that more work needs to be done in the ascertainment of outbreaks. The group identified factors affecting surveillance as well as surveillance of outbreaks and agreed some recommendations that would be included in their report.
4. Structure of the Group’s report and members contributions and Work Programme
The Group discussed the format and contribution Members had made to the draft Foodborne Viral Infections Report. Members were informed that there were projects currently in progress that may provide an opportunity to obtain information that would aid the estimation of prevalence of Hepatitis E in UK pigs. It was agreed that this information would be worthwhile capturing in the report.