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Scientific Committee Meeting - 11 December 2023

Attendance

Members Present
    Martin Cormican (Chair) (MC)
    Alan Kelly (AK)
    Andrew Flanagan (AF)
    Anne Molloy (AM)
    Dagmar Stengel (DS)
    Geraldine Duffy (GD)
    Ita Kinahan (IK)
    Kevin Cashman (KC)
    Lois O’Connor (LOC)
    Séamus Fanning (SF)

FSAI Staff Present
   Wayne Anderson (WA)
   Pat O’Mahony (POM)
   Lisa O’Connor (LiOC)
   Joe Hannon (JH)
   Micheál O’Mahony (MOM)
   Rob Phillips (RP)
   Mary Flynn (MFl)
   Judith Giles (JG)

Apologies

    Ann Marie Part (AMP)
    Dolores O’Riordan (DOR)
    Mark Fenelon (MF)
    Martin Wilkinson (MW)
    Montserrat Gutierrez (MG)

1.    Disclosures of Interest

The Chair welcomed the members to the meeting. There were no disclosures of interest.

2.    Matters Arising from the Meeting Minutes of 25 September 2023

The actions from the last meeting were completed except for the actions relating to the dioxins work – see agenda item 3.

WA confirmed that DOR has agreed to chair the subcommittee on food hygiene rating systems, although her time is limited. WA asked the members to consider if they would like to join the subcommittee. RP will work with DOR on the membership.

Actions:
•    Members to let JG know if they are interested in joining the subcommittee.

3.    Update from Chemical Safety Subcommittee

AF noted that the Chemical Safety Subcommittee met once, and the Total Diet Study (TDS) and Biomarkers Working Group (WG) met twice in November.

In relation to the dioxins and PCBs work, MOM has agreed to draft text on animal husbandry methods and this text will then be reviewed by colleagues of DOR. Further work must be done before a meeting of the WG can be arranged.

The TDS and Biomarkers WG was chaired by Breige McNulty, and the proposed lists were circulated prior to the meeting. AF thanked the FSAI Chemical Safety team for their work on this.

JH reminded the members that the task in the RfA was to review the existing lists of chemical parameters and foods groups to consider if they are still appropriate and to suggest changes if required. He took the committee through the rationale for the chemical parameters first. The following was noted:

•    Some clarifications were agreed to the specific parameters being analysed on the list.
•    The rationale for some of the parameters needs to be clearer and changes were agreed. Footnotes will be added in some cases. There was discussion regarding parameters that are topical and generate public discussion, for example pesticides. It was agreed that the lists should be based on an assessment of the likelihood that meaningful analysis of the data generated would be possible in the overall context of the proposed TDS, rather than on how topical the parameter in question is. 
•    Some new parameters were proposed based on recent concerns raised by e.g., EFSA, and maximum levels have been put in place.
•    Some existing parameters were proposed for exclusion as they are already covered in annual surveys or monitoring plans, or because no concerns were raised in previous TDSs and there is no reason to expect that the circumstances have changed significantly since that time.
•    Some parameters will be analysed in all food groups, but others are only relevant to some foods.
•    A brief note explaining the origin of the lists and what is included in them will be added to the document.

JH then took the committee through the food list and the following was noted:

•    10 new food categories were identified in the NANS II survey, and these were reviewed first. Most were proposed for exclusion as the frequency of consumption is low. 
•    Meaningful analysis cannot be done if the numbers of consumers in the study population is very low. Text will be included to explain this.
•    Some additional clarifications to the rationale for some foods were agreed to be included in the document.
•    The definition of cereal bars for the purpose of this study needs to be clarified.
•    It was agreed to include the protein drinks/shakes/powders category in the TDS as consumption may be high in some sectors of the study population.
•    Some minor updates were made to the existing food list.

The Scientific Committee agreed the lists in principle, subject to the changes agreed. It was proposed that the updated lists would be circulated by the end of the week. Members should review the lists and send any final comments they have. If there are no further comments, the lists will be taken as agreed.

AF mentioned that the RfA includes a third question on biomarkers which will be followed up by the WG in the New Year.

Actions:
•    MOM to draft text for dioxins report and send to DOR.
•    JH to update the lists with the changes agreed.
•    JG to circulate the lists by Friday 15 December.
•    Members to review and send on any final comments by Wednesday 20 December.

4.    Update from Analytical Methods Subcommittee

IK took the feedback from the last Scientific Committee meeting back to the subcommittee and this was incorporated into the report and discussed at two meetings in October. The main task now is for the technical secretariat to review the format of the report and circulate a revised version to the subcommittee. The draft answers to the questions were also revised extensively and IK will send them to MC for review. It is proposed to have a subcommittee meeting in late January.

Actions:
•    IK to send the revised answers to the questions to MC for review.

5.    Update from Biological Safety Subcommittee

GD noted that the risk ranking of biological hazards work is progressing with the help of two FSAI Technical Executives on the calculation of the burden of human illness, including the underestimation factor. Work is also being done on the materials for the expert elicitation process. A meeting is planned for early January to set out clear targets for the project for 2024.

The membership of the Hepatitis E in Pigs WG was confirmed, and the first meeting took place on 7 December chaired by Helen O’Shea, with MOM acting as technical secretariat. There was a good discussion at the meeting which considered the data available currently on this topic. It is planned to have small teams working on each question in the RfA.

6.    Update from PHN Subcommittee

KC confirmed that a joint meeting of the PHN Subcommittee and the Healthy Eating Guidelines for Adolescents WG took place in October. Text has been drafted and there was discussion on the definition of adolescents and sustainability; micro- and macronutrients were also considered; and FSAI staff presented a proposed dietary modelling approach, which was extended and agreed. A WG meeting is scheduled for 22 January and 2024 will focus on the modelling work and its outputs. 

7.    Correspondence

There was no correspondence received.

8.    AOB

There was no other business discussed.

9.    Date of Next Meeting

The Chair noted that 2024 will be a very busy year and suggested that, if necessary, the Scientific Committee hold additional meetings rather than schedule long meetings. There was general support for this approach. He thanked the members for their attendance and wished them a Happy Christmas.

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