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Scientific Committee Meeting - 24 May 2022

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)
  • Mark Fenelon (MF)
  • Micheál O’Mahony (MOM)
  • Montserrat Gutierrez (MG)

FSAI Staff Present

  • Wayne Anderson (WA)
  • Emer O’Reilly (EOR)
  • Lisa O’Connor (LOC)
  • Pat O’Mahony (POM)
  • Judith Giles (JG)


  • Dolores O’Riordan (DOR)
  • Ann Marie Part (AMP)
  • Martin Wilkinson (MW)
  • Séamus Fanning (SF)
  • Mary Flynn (MFl)
  • Oonagh Lyons (OL)
  • Rob Phillips (RP)

1. Disclosures of Interest 

There was a disclosure of interest from KC in relation to funding just received from DAFM for a Vitamin D food fortification project. The Chair congratulated KC on the funding award. This was not considered a conflict of interest by the Chair.

2. Matters Arising from the Meeting Minutes of 8 December

All actions from the last meeting were completed. WA noted that the work of the Cannabis Edibles Subcommittee is on hold pending a legal opinion.

3. Draft Advice: Scientific recommendations on vitamin D nutrition for the population aged between 5 and 65 years in Ireland

KC acknowledged the work of the Vitamin D Working Group, the PHN Subcommittee and the FSAI Secretariat in getting the advice drafted. There is a lot of Irish data available which was helpful. The report follows the structure of previous Scientific Committee reports published and looked at vitamin D status, dietary requirements, intakes, approaches to addressing low intakes and safety issues. The title was updated.

There was some discussion on the report:

  • KC explained that vitamin D status in Ireland is low and that this is related to inadequate UV exposure and inadequate dietary intakes. A varied diet helps to provide vitamin D, however, it is not sufficient on its own to achieve the levels recommended for health. Food fortification and food supplementation are options to help people bridge the gap.
  • A comment was made that, based on the content of the draft advice, the large clinical studies on supplementation in the last 10 years do not appear to demonstrate a health benefit. KC advised that these ‘megatrials’ were aimed at achieving a much higher vitamin D status than what is being proposed in this report, with a view to influencing health outcomes other than bone health, and that the evidence shows that it is not necessary to achieve a higher status for bone health alone. These trials also used high dose supplements which is not being recommended in the report. It was agreed to revise the advice to provide greater clarity on these issues.
  • The report notes that people are at risk of deficiency at serum 25(OH)D concentrations below 30 nmol/L. The evidence that taking regular dietary supplements is effective at the individual level in achieving the 30nmol/l target is excellent. It would be helpful to provide greater clarity on the status of evidence to indicate if a policy of promoting dietary supplementation is effective as a public health measure at population level.
  • There may be room to improve consistency with respect to use of terminology on low vitamin D status, which represents a risk of deficiency as distinct from vitamin D deficiency in some parts of the report.
  • The limitations of food fortification and food supplementation have been highlighted. There is no physiological advantage of one over the other. Bioavailability of vitamin D from single dose food supplements was queried and should be addressed.
  • It would be helpful to provide greater clarity on the status of evidence to indicate if a policy of food fortification is effective as a public health measure at population level. The experience of Finland in this regard was discussed and considered useful to highlight further.
  • The potential for a policy of supplementation as compared to fortification to effectively reach marginalised and disadvantaged groups was discussed.
  • It was suggested that the report would not formulate recommendations regarding specific measures/interventions, as the intention is that the report should assist the Department of Health (DoH) in considering options to influence vitamin D status in the population. With this in mind, the report should focus more specifically on answering the questions posed by the DoH.

The Chair thanked KC and the PHN Subcommittee for the work done on the report. The updated report will be brought to the next Scientific Committee meeting for further discussion with a goal to approve at the next meeting, if possible.

The Chair proposed that, in general, it is helpful if draft reports are discussed over two meetings of the Scientific Committee. Recognising that Scientific Committee is responsible for the content of the report, it is important to allow time for members to reflect on discussions at the initial meeting.


  • KC to amend the draft report and liaise with the Chair.
  • Updated Vitamin D report to be circulated before the next meeting.

4. Update from PHN Subcommittee

KC will take on board the feedback on the Vitamin D report and amend it. The next piece of work for the subcommittee will be on food-based dietary guidelines for adolescents and this work will be scoped out over the summer. In addition, the DoH has asked for sustainability to be considered in this report and clarification will be sought on this.

5. Update from Biological Safety Subcommittee

The BS Subcommittee met in January and April and a technical meeting on probiotics was also held in February.


GD noted that the BS Subcommittee has requested a revision be made to the RfA. Live microorganisms can be added to (1) whole foods, (2) foods for special medical purposes (FSMPs) and (3) food supplements. Food supplements must be notified to the FSAI when being placed on the market, however there is limited information provided with the notifications. The subcommittee agreed that the priority area for the RfA to focus on was food supplements. A meeting was also held with a representative from EFSA who provided some information on the QPS List and supported the proposed work being undertaken.
There were some comments from the members. It was agreed that the focus is on live microorganisms and symbiotics are included in the scope only if they contain live organisms. Although the term ‘probiotics’ is not recognised under health claims legislation, some member states allow it and the target audience will recognise the term, so it is proposed to use this term. A definition of probiotic, for the purpose of the report, will be included in the report. It was confirmed also that the report would focus on safety and not address claims efficacy. The characterisation, characteristics and concentration of the probiotic at source, the viability over time and any adverse effects will have to be considered in an assessment. Some minor edits were noted. The proposed revision of the RfA was accepted by the committee. It is intended to have a draft report ready by the Autumn.


  • LOC to issue the revised version of the RfA to the Scientific Committee.

Risk Ranking of Microbial Hazards

GD confirmed the calculation of the burden of total illness using the BCoDE Toolkit is progressing and draft DALYs have been calculated for five of the hazards chosen. Data is being gathered on the remaining two hazards. Nominees have been requested from the BS Subcommittee for experts to take part in the expert elicitation study. 10 experts will be chosen. They will receive questionnaires by email and then take part in a facilitated meeting. The Chair suggested that a presentation be given at the next meeting to help familiarise the members with this work. WA also noted that it has been agreed to source an extra resource to assist with the project.


  • GD to give a presentation on the risk ranking work at the next meeting.

6. Update from Chemical Safety Subcommittee

AF confirmed that one meeting of the CS Subcommittee took place in January. At this meeting it was agreed that additional expertise on organics, soil and GIS mapping systems would be needed to complete the work on dioxins and PCBs and that a working group should be formed. The membership of the WG has just been finalised and the WG will be chaired by MOM. It is hoped to organise the first meeting within the next month.

7. Update from Analytical Methods Ad hoc Subcommittee

IK reported that the subcommittee met twice in March and May. The members are discussing a framework for the report and what the limitations of the work will be. Expertise within the group is being matched to the different sections in the report which may show up gaps. Some scenarios or case studies will be prepared for the next meeting to generate discussion. It is expected that smaller WGs will be formed after that to focus on different sections of the report.

8. Work Plan Review

WA noted that the work plan is reviewed annually. Some updates to the titles of work projects were approved based on the requests for advice agreed/reports in progress. WA confirmed the recent appointment of Rob Phillips as Chief Specialist in Environment Health in the FSAI and he will lead on official controls projects.


  • JG to update the work plan on the FSAI website.

9. Correspondence

There was no correspondence received.

10. AOB

There was no other business discussed.

11. Date of Next Meeting

The Chair proposed a face-to-face meeting (not hybrid) in September. WA noted that facilities for the larger meeting rooms are limited for now in terms of hybrid technology. The Chair thanked everyone for their participation.


  • JG to confirm the date of the next meeting.