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Scientific Committee Meeting - 22 May 2023

Monday, 22 May 2023 @ 10.30am (FSAI Offices)

Members Present

  • Martin Cormican (Chair) (MC)
  • Alan Kelly (AK)
  • Andrew Flanagan (AF)
  • Ann Marie Part (AMP)
  • Anne Molloy (AM)
  • Dolores O’Riordan (DOR)
  • Geraldine Duffy (GD)
  • Ita Kinahan (IK)
  • Kevin Cashman (KC)
  • Montserrat Gutierrez (MG)

FSAI Staff Present

  • Wayne Anderson (WA)
  • Lisa O’Connor (LOC)
  • Emer O’Reilly (EOR)
  • Micheál O’Mahony (MOM)
  • Rob Phillips (RP)
  • Mary Flynn (MFl)
  • Judith Giles (JG)


  • Dagmar Stengel (DS)
  • Mark Fenelon (MF)
  • Martin Wilkinson (MW)
  • Séamus Fanning (SF)

1. Disclosures of Interest

The Chair welcomed the members to the meeting in the FSAI. He noted that Dr Lois O’Connor, HSE, has been appointed to the Scientific Committee by the Minister of Health.
There were no disclosures of interest.

2. Matters Arising from the Meeting Minutes of 22 February

The actions from the last meeting were completed except for the scheduling of the Q4 meeting. The report ‘Assessment of the Safety of Probiotics in Food Supplements’ was adopted electronically by the Scientific Committee on 31 March. The FSAI Board has agreed to publication of the report.

3. Request for Advice: Planning and implementation of the 4th Total Diet Study (TDS) and identification of relevant and most appropriate biomarkers to accompany TDS results.

EOR introduced this request for advice (RfA) which will come under the work of the Chemical Safety Subcommittee. This is required by November 2023 as it will provide internal advice for the FSAI to plan the Total Diet Study (TDS) for 2024-2025. A TDS is a public health tool to determine dietary exposure to chemical substances such as contaminants, pesticides, additives, and nutrients across a population’s entire diet. Food consumption data from the Irish Universities Nutrition Alliance (IUNA) adult and children’s dietary surveys will be used to determine the food groups to be included in the study. The diversification in the population in recent years and its potential impact on food choices was noted. Commonly consumed foods will be prepared in the manner in which they are generally prepared and then analysed for certain chemical substances. The results will be compared to health-based guidance values to estimate the exposure. The study will estimate the exposure of certain chemicals and include a risk assessment. The risk ranking of chemical contaminants in food will also be considered. The increased regulation of some contaminants and the cost of analysis was noted. The TDS does not take into account exposure from non-food sources, but risk of harm is linked to total exposure. To address this a list of appropriate biomarkers, which are influenced by total exposure, will be generated so that this could be used to support risk assessments. There were some clarifications made to the RfA and it was agreed by the Committee.


  • EOR to update the RfA to reflect amendments made at the meeting and circulate to the members.

4. Request for Advice: Advice on the foodborne risks to human health of Hepatitis E virus in pigs in Ireland and recommendations on measures for risk reduction.

MOM presented this RfA on Hepatitis E. The scope of the work was discussed, and it was agreed that it would focus on pigs only. Other foodborne sources will not be included. There is limited data on Hepatitis E in humans in Ireland. It is included in the risk ranking of microbiological hazards work currently in progress. The impact of food preparation processes, e.g., cooking, fermentation, brining, curing etc. on exposure to viable Hepatitis E needs to be considered. It was agreed that this work will be carried out by a WG of the Biological Safety Subcommittee, with MOM providing the technical secretariat for the group. The Chair will be a member of the subcommittee. The RfA will be updated and circulated for electronic sign off in the next couple of weeks.


  • MOM to update the RfA for circulation to the members for electronic sign off.

5. Request for Advice: Evaluation / exploration of food service hygiene rating schemes for Ireland

RP introduced this RfA on food hygiene rating systems (FHRS). The scope of this project was discussed, and it was agreed that it should include an appraisal of existing schemes in terms of hygiene and compliance standards and the possible benefits and drawbacks of introducing such a scheme in Ireland. It will assist FSAI in deciding its position on these schemes. The RfA will be updated and circulated for electronic sign off in the next few weeks. The work will be carried out by an ad hoc subcommittee of the Scientific Committee and a volunteer to chair the subcommittee was requested from the members.


  • RP to update the RfA for circulation to the members for electronic sign off.
  • Members to email JG if they would be willing to chair the ad hoc subcommittee.

6. Update from Chemical Safety Subcommittee

AF noted that a meeting of the Dioxins and PCBs Working Group (WG) was held on 14 March where a presentation was given on the literature review and on organic farming in Ireland. Members agreed to send on additional monitoring data and DAFM colleagues will draft text on animal husbandry practices for organic and free-range poultry production systems. Similar information is also required for other farming sectors; however, this information may not be available within the WG. As yet it has not been possible to obtain this information from other sources. The Chair proposed that a decision should be made at the September meeting as to whether that additional information is likely to be available to the working group and, if not, the group should narrow its focus to those production systems where data is available. The next WG meeting is scheduled for 21 June.

7. Update from Biological Safety Subcommittee

GD acknowledged the work of Mary O’Connell Motherway in getting the Probiotics report completed.
She advised that she met with LOC and FSAI staff recently to plan the next steps of the risk ranking of microbiological hazards work. Assistance is needed from HSE colleagues on the DALY calculations; a decision on the underestimation factor is needed; and materials must be finalised for the expert elicitation group. She thanked Pat O’Mahony for the additional FSAI staff resource to assist with the work.
The new RfA on Hepatitis E will be included in the work of the subcommittee.

8. Update from PHN Subcommittee

KC stated that the PHN Subcommittee met on 24 April. A WG has been established and the membership agreed. Two external experts will be invited to join. The work plan for the project was discussed. Some members volunteered to take the lead on the three actions to be completed this year. KC noted that the focus is on preparing scientific recommendations for food-based dietary guidelines for adolescents, but that sustainability will be considered as part of the work. A WG meeting will be scheduled in July.

9. Update from Analytical Methods Ad hoc Subcommittee

IK noted that the subcommittee met on 17 April and the subgroups have nearly completed adding in text to the report. The members will look at the content and structure of the report, and any overlaps and gaps in information at the next meeting on 29 May. IK will send a draft of the report to the Chair in September.

10. Correspondence

The letter of appointment for Dr Lois O’Connor was received from the Department of Health (dated 9 May 2023).

11. AOB

AM provided positive feedback on the new FSAI website and congratulated all involved.

12. Date of Next Meeting

The next meeting will be a virtual meeting on 25 September. The Chair encouraged members to complete doodle polls as quickly as possible. He thanked the members for their attendance and contributions.


  • JG to confirm the date of the meeting for Q4.