Monday, 19 December 2022 @ 10.30am (online)
- Martin Cormican (Chair) (MC)
- Alan Kelly (AK)
- Andrew Flanagan (AF)
- Ann Marie Part (AMP)
- Anne Molloy (AM)
- Dagmar Stengel (DS)
- Dolores O’Riordan (DOR)
- Geraldine Duffy (GD)
- Ita Kinahan (IK)
- Kevin Cashman (KC)
- Mark Fenelon (MF)
- Martin Wilkinson (MW)
- Montserrat Gutierrez (MG)
- Séamus Fanning (SF)
- Mary O’Connell Motherway (MOCM)
FSAI Staff Present
- Wayne Anderson (WA)
- Lisa O’Connor (LOC)
- Pat O’Mahony (POM)
- Emer O’Reilly (EOR)
- Cristina Arroyo-Casabona (CAC)
- Micheál O’Mahony (MOM)
- Rob Phillips (RP)
- Judith Giles (JG)
- Mary Flynn (MFl)
- Oonagh Lyons (OL)
- Pamela Byrne (PB)
1. Disclosures of Interest
The Chair welcomed the members to the meeting. GD noted that she has been appointed to the Management Board of EFSA and MC offered his congratulations to GD.
WA noted that Micheál O’Mahony was recently appointed Chief Specialist Veterinary Public Health in FSAI. He has resigned from the Scientific Committee; however, he will be part of the FSAI technical secretariat in the future. MC thanked MOM for his contribution to the work of the Scientific Committee and wished him well in his new role. The FSAI Board has requested a replacement be appointed by the Minister of Health. WA also introduced Rob Phillips, Chief Specialist Environmental Health, to the members.
3. Matters Arising from the Meeting Minutes of 15 September
All actions from the last meeting were completed.
4. Update from PHN Subcommittee
KC said that the PHN Subcommittee met in November. An update was provided on the adoption of the Vitamin D report and there were some preliminary discussions on the next project for the subcommittee.
Draft Request for Advice: Scientific recommendations for food-based dietary guidelines for adolescents in Ireland
KC took the committee through a request for advice on food-based dietary guidelines (FBDG) for adolescents which was circulated before the meeting. There were some comments from the members:
- It was noted that there are good definitions available for adolescence and sustainability from WHO/FAO and other sources, and these will be reviewed and a definition for each adopted for this work. A wording change for Q1 & Q4 was agreed.
- It was agreed that the primary responsibility of the Scientific Committee is to provide advice on food safety and healthy eating. In the event that there is a perceived conflict on an issue between food safety and sustainability, the committee will give priority to food safety but will note the sustainability issue.
- A nutrition report from Sweden which considers sustainability issues was mentioned as a potentially useful source.
This work will take some time to complete, and KC will provide a more detailed update at the mid-way stage. The PHN Subcommittee may benefit from additional expertise for aspects of this work and will invite other experts to join a working group as required. The RfA was adopted by the committee.
5. Update from Biological Safety Subcommittee
GD noted that the BS Subcommittee met in November.
Draft Advice: Assessment of the safety of probiotics in food supplements
GD outlined the draft report to the committee. The Chair said that the report was for discussion, and he proposed that, following discussion and reflection, it can be brought to the next meeting with a view to adoption. There were some comments from the members, some of which had been submitted in advance:
- The draft report reads well and is clear.
- There is potential to improve clarity about what is in scope in terms of the products addressed. The draft includes information on probiotics in food that is of relevance to the safety of those probiotics in food supplements and should be retained, but it is important to keep the distinction clear as the questions to the Scientific Committee in this instance relate specifically to food supplements. Food supplements are defined in legislation.
- It was noted that EFSA assesses new supplement ingredients under the novel food Regulation.
- The meaning of the term “strain” could be more clearly defined, or an alternative term used.
- It was noted in relation to probiotic organisms EFSA places the emphasis on transferable antimicrobial resistance and this is reflected in this report, but non-transferable AMR is also a therapeutic challenge if an organism causes infection.
- There was discussion regarding the term used for people at increased risk of infection - the term ‘vulnerable groups’ is used in the draft report however that term is also used in relation to people with other vulnerabilities. The options are to avoid the term or to define clearly what it means in the context of this report.
- There may be value in framing the executive summary in terms of answers to the specific questions to the Scientific Committee.
- It was agreed to consider a recommendation regarding the importance of full and accurate information to consumers regarding the probiotic(s) in the product and if there are groups of people for whom the product may not be considered suitable. There is no legal requirement for names of strains and quantity of microbes to be provided, however the general legislation on food labelling applies.
- It was also agreed that it would be useful to disseminate information on the recommendations to relevant healthcare professionals who may be approached for advice regarding probiotic supplements by people at increased risk of infection.
- A sentence on providing recommendations on storage could be included as a consideration for manufacturers.
The next steps were agreed: (1) any final comments on the draft report should be sent on this week; (2) the report will be reviewed, and the comments will be incorporated; (3) the revised report will be circulated later in January. The members were encouraged to send comments on the report.
Risk Ranking of Microbial Hazards
The risk ranking work is progressing. The pace of progress has been slowed in part due to staff changes in FSAI. GD will meet the FSAI technical secretariat in the New Year to progress this work. WA noted that the WHO/FAO FERG group will be revisiting their work on the global burden of foodborne disease.
GD noted that the BS Subcommittee will consider taking on another project alongside the risk ranking work next year.
- MOCM/LOC/GD to revise the draft Probiotics report for circulation in January.
6. Update from Chemical Safety Subcommittee
EOR noted that the literature review on dioxins and PCBs is on track and will be completed by the end of January. An interim report was received recently from the external expert. With the resignation of MOM, AF has agreed to take over the Chair of the working group. In addition, one member resigned from the CS Subcommittee in early December due to work commitments. WA noted that it is possible to outsource certain pieces of work in order to move projects along.
7. Update from Analytical Methods Ad hoc Subcommittee
IK said that the subcommittee met on 14 October and progress is being made. Draft text was discussed from the three subgroups: (1) chromatographic techniques; (2) -omics; and (3) stable isotope analysis. Meetings have been scheduled for two of the subgroups in January and the subcommittee will meet after that.
8. EFSA Publications Channel
Cristina Arroyo-Casabona gave a presentation on the new EFSA publications channel ‘Food Risk Assess Europe’, which will host the risk assessment outputs of Member States’ food safety agencies. Reports published on national websites can be sent to EFSA and will be hosted on this new platform. This will give these reports a wider audience and more visibility. The move was welcomed by members.
MC noted that the role of the FSAI Board in relation to publication of reports of the Scientific Committee was discussed at a recent Board meeting. Members of the Board asked if opinions of the Scientific Committee should be routinely subjected to external review after completion of the Scientific Committee work and before submission to the Board. Members of the Board asked if, in agreeing to publication, the Board was endorsing the opinion of the Scientific Committee.
MC advised that under the FSAI Act the Scientific Committee is independent in forming its opinion and the Scientific Committee, as distinct from the Executive or the Board, is entirely responsible for the scientific opinion. He undertook to raise the issue from the Board for discussion with the Scientific Committee. The Scientific Committee acknowledged the support of the Board, confirmed that it understands its independent and responsibility as outlined above. External experts frequently contribute to opinions of the Scientific Committee through participation in working groups. The Scientific Committee also acknowledged that the option to seek an external review of a final draft is available to it. In the event that the Scientific Committee consider this is required, it would seek the external review before adoption of the opinion and that external review would result in advice to the Scientific Committee which would be considered but the Scientific Committee remains responsible for the final opinion send to the Board.
WA noted that, with MOM and RP in place in FSAI, they may be able to take on projects from the work plan.
- MC to update the Board on the discussions and the EFSA publications channel.
10. Date of Next Meeting
The Chair proposed that four meetings (two in person and two virtual) be held in 2023. Dates will be agreed for the year. Additional meetings will be considered if required. The next meeting will be scheduled in February.
The Chair thanked the members for their contribution and wished everyone a Happy Christmas.
- JG to confirm the dates of meetings for next year.