Professor S O’Brien
Mr J Bassett
Mrs V Buller
Ms S Davies
Prof. M Gasson
Mr A Kyriakides
Ms E Lewis
Dr S Millership
Mrs J Morris
Prof. L Piddock
Prof. P Williams
Mr P Gayford (Defra)
Dr J Hilton (FSA)
Dr S Neill (DARDNI)
Dr L Foster (Administrative Secretary)
Mr Ade Adeoye
Miss Sarah Butler
Ms Elizabeth Andoh-Kesson, BMPA
Mr Steve Batchford, Brakes
Mr John Charap
Dr Charmaine Clarke, Safefood, Ireland
Mr David Clarke, Assured Food Standards
Mr Andrew Curtis, Food and Drink Federation
Mr Kirsty Dinsdale, ADAS
Mr Andrew Frost, Defra
Mrs Barbara Gallani, British Retail Consortium
Ms Kaarin Goodburn, Chilled Food Association
Dr Chris Houston, Defra
Mr Sean Humber, Leigh Day & Co
Miss Fiona Lock, Defra
Mr Alan Long, VEGA
Mrs Ishbel MacKinnon, HUSH
Miss Gemma Mulholland, Defra
Mr Rick Pendrous, Food Manufacture magazine
Mr Alan Proctor, Zhitz International
Mr Steve Nash, HUSH
Mr Stephen Wyllie, Defra
Chair's introduction, apologies for absence and declarations of interest
1.1 The Chair welcomed ACMSF Members and members of the public to the 62nd meeting of the Committee. She also welcomed Dr Edward Guy (NPHS Wales) who would be presenting agenda item 6 and Dr Joanne Aish (FSA) who would be presenting agenda item 7.
1.2 The Chair informed Members that the agenda item reviewing the recommendations of the ACMSF Report on microbial antibiotic resistance in relation to food safety would be discussed at a future meeting. Two additional items on Avian influenza and the Epidemiology of Foodborne Infections Group had been added to the agenda for the meeting.
1.3 She asked Members to identify any items for discussion under any other business at the end of the meeting. None were identified.
2. Apologies for absence
2.1 Apologies for absence were received from Dr David Brown, Professor Tom Humphrey, Professor Paul Hunter, Mr Paul McMullin and Mr Robert Rees.
3. Declarations of interests
3.1 The Chair reminded the Committee of the need to declare any conflicts of interests relating to items on the agenda. Mr Kyriakides informed Members that, in relation to agenda items 6 and 7, his employer sold cured meats, lamb and goat products.
Minutes of the 61st meeting (ACM/MIN/61) and matters arising
4.1 Members approved ACM/MIN/61 as a correct record of the previous meeting. The Secretariat was asked to arrange for final minutes to be posted on the Committee’s website.
5. Matters arising
5.1 The Chair drew attention to the Secretariat information paper ACM/827 detailing matters arising from previous meetings. Professor Piddock formally recorded her concern that, in relation to paper ACM/838, no postgraduate studentships on microbiology had been commissioned since 2005.
Toxoplasmosis and food (ACM/828)
6.1 At the Chair’s invitation, Dr Edward Guy (NPHS Wales) presented an overview of human toxoplasmosis in the UK and other countries. He reviewed the findings of three major studies carried out in the Netherlands, Europe and the USA. He also outlined the routes of Toxoplasma gondii transmission. These were via the environment (soil, water), and the food chain from crops through insufficient washing of vegetables and from animals (consumption of raw or undercooked meat). He explained that the cat was the definitive host for this organism. Risk factors for acquiring toxoplasma infection, incidence of infection and burden of disease in the UK were also discussed and approaches to risk assessment were briefly reviewed.
6.2 In the ensuing discussion the Committee:
- Reviewed the limitations of the three published studies presented noting that the Netherlands study assessed incidence of toxoplasmosis based on the assumption that all cases were foodborne, and did not take account of environmental sources of transmission. A European study carried out in 2000 did not gather information on consumption of salads or vegetables and one third of cases could not be attributed to any source. Members queried why there was no risk associated with the cat (definitive source of T. gondii) in the EU study and highlighted the difficulties of extrapolating conclusions from work based on cat ownership in other countries to the UK.
- Identified several data gaps and unknowns with respect to risk factors for toxoplasmosis in the UK. These included the impact of climatic conditions on environmental incidence of the organism, and differences in socioeconomic groups and cultural aspects. Members agreed that more information to assess the prevalence of T. gondii in the food chain was needed including data on incidence and heat inactivation of the parasite to assess the risk posed by consumption of undercooked meat. Members agreed that all these factors required investigation. In addition, any commissioned work to assess the incidence of T. gondii in food would need to run in parallel with any human epidemiology studies.
- Concluded that there was insufficient data available to recommend changing advice on whole cuts of meat.
- Considered that any consideration given to increasing surveillance of foods would need to reflect the significance of the risk posed by this disease.
- Noted that T. gondii cysts spread throughout meat muscle and that these cysts were inactivated by freezing at -20ºC. Therefore freezing meat prior to consumption minimised risk of infection.
- Noted that historically there was a high risk of Toxoplasma re-activation in HIV patients although this was reduced by newer HIV treatments.
- Noted that typing work showed that T. gondii was very similar to Cryptosporidium with types I and II being associated with different levels of pathogenicity.
6.3 The Chair thanked Dr Guy for his presentation. She concluded that, at the present time, there was insufficient data available to recommend changing cooking advice on whole cuts of meat. Therefore she suggested that the ACMSF ad hoc Group on vulnerable groups consider the risks posed by Toxoplasma in food in more detail. Defra registered an interest in being involved in these discussions.
Action: Secretariat/Professor Hunter
6.4 Lastly, Dr Hilton informed Members that the Agency had work in progress on sampling carcass meat at abattoirs which included work on Toxoplasma. She agreed to clarify whether the Microbiological Safety Food Funders Group had considered toxoplasmosis.
Action: Dr Hilton
Botulism in sheep and goats (ACM/829)
7.1 At the Chair’s invitation Dr Joanne Aish introduced paper ACM/829. She reminded Members that following comments received in response to the consultation on botulism in cattle report, the ad hoc group on botulism in cattle had agreed that the potential risk to human health from food chain issues linked to botulism or suspected botulism in sheep and goats should be considered as a separate issue.
7.2 She explained that paper ACM/829 therefore sought the Committee’s advice on whether the current recommendations for botulism in cattle lifting voluntary restrictions on meat and milk from healthy cattle from farms where there have been suspected cases of botulism could also be applied to meat and milk from healthy sheep and goats where there have been suspected cases of botulism.
7.3 Members recognised that although there may be similarities in progression and onset of the disease, the Committee would need to explore issues surrounding epidemiology, route and transmission of the disease in sheep and goats. The Committee proposed that the ad hoc group on botulism in cattle should be reconvened to examine these issues in more detail.
7.4 The Chair thanked Dr Aish for her presentation. She requested that the Secretariat reconvene the ad hoc group on botulism in cattle to examine evidence in relation to sheep and goats.
Safe cooking of burgers
8.1 At the Chair’s invitation Professor Williams (Chair, ad hoc Group on safe cooking of burgers) presented paper ACM/830. He reminded Members that in June 2006 the Committee approved the draft report on safe cooking of burgers for public consultation. The consultation on this report took place between July and October 2006.
8.2 He explained that the group was set up to review the Chief Medical Officer’s 1998 advice on safe cooking of burgers and to report back to the ACMSF with recommendations. The group concluded that there was no evidence to support a relaxation in the advice. He added the CMO’s advice was therefore included in an Annex to the report.
8.3 A wide range of comments were received in response to the consultation which broadly fell into three categories: comments received which were supportive of the report; comments on detailed or technical issues (these were taken on board to improve the clarity and accuracy of the report); and comments relating to concerns on procedural aspects of the groups’ work and a misunderstanding relating to the recommendations about the advice. He explained that the group recognised the issues raised associated with E.coli O157 and added that the group had conducted its investigations in accordance with Nolan Principles.
8.4 The Chair thanked Professor Williams for his report. She confirmed that the Committee approved the consultation response for publication on the FSA web site and recommended the report for submission to the FSA for approval for final publication by June 2007.
Codex Food Hygiene meeting
9.1 At the Chair’s invitation Dr Cook presented paper ACM/832 which summarised the main outcomes of the 38th session of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) which was held in Houston, Texas in December 2006. By way of background, he explained that historically the ACMSF was informed of the work of this Codex group which met every 12-18 months.
9.2 The Codex Committee agreed to advance three documents to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for adoption on guidelines for microbiological risk management, hygienic practice for eggs and egg products and guidelines on the application of general principles of food hygiene to the control of L. monocytogenes in ready to eat foods. The Committee also agreed to take forward new work on proposed guidelines for control of Salmonella and Campylobacter in broiler meat. Future work on noroviruses in shellfish, E.coli and fruit and vegetables was also discussed. Lastly, he reported that an FAO/WHO expert consultation on the uses of active chlorine was expected to be held in 2007.
9.3 The Chair thanked Dr Cook for his update and confirmed that these updates from the Codex Food Hygiene meetings were valuable for the ACMSF.