Minutes of the Scientific Committee 3rd July 2020

Minutes of the Meeting of the Scientific Committee of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland on Friday 3rd July 2020 at 10:30am by video conference

PRESENT:

  • Prof. Albert Flynn (Chair) [AF]
  • Prof. Brian McKenna [BMcK]
  • Ms Ita Saul [IS]
  • Dr Michael O’Keeffe [MOK]
  • Dr Mark Fenelon [MF]
  • Mr John Keegan [JK]
  • Ms Paula Barry Walsh [PBW]
  • Prof. Kevin Cashman [KC]
  • Mr Ray Parle [RP]
  • Dr Margaret O’Sullivan [MOS]
  • Dr Eleanor McNamara [EMcN]

IN ATTENDANCE:

  • Dr Wayne Anderson [WA]
  • Dr Mary Flynn [MFL]
  • Ms Oonagh Lyons [OL]
  • Ms Faye Clarke [FC]
  • Dr Christina Tlustos [CT]
  • Ms Dorothy Guina Dornan [DGD]
  • Mr John Matthews [JM]
  • Ms Judith Giles [JG]

APOLOGIES:

  • Dr Geraldine Duffy [GD]
  • Dr PJ Cullen [PJC]
  • Dr Donal Sammin [DS]
  • Dr Lisa O’Connor [LOC]
  • Dr Pat O’Mahony [POM]

The meeting was held by video conference due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.

1. DISCLOSURES OF INTEREST

Noted: RP stated that he is a member of the Irish Expert Body on Fluoride. The Chair noted that this is not a conflict of interest.

 

2. AGREE MINUTES OF PREVIOUS MEETING (3 April) 

Noted: The draft minutes were agreed.

 

3. MATTERS ARISING

Noted: The actions from the meeting were completed. The following updates were noted:
- The Department of Health (DoH) confirmed the extension of Albert Flynn’s position as Chair to 31 December 2020.
- The report on the Safety of Vitamins and Minerals in Food Supplements has been amended and sent to the Communications Team.
- The Work Plan has been updated on the website.
- The FSAI Science Strategy has been published on the website.

4. SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS OF SEAWEED & SEAWEED-DERIVED FOODS AVAILABLE ON THE IRISH MARKET

Noted: BMcK gave an overview of the draft report from the Ad hoc Subcommittee on Seaweed and thanked the members and FSAI staff for their input. Seaweed production in Ireland is small and its consumption is very much a niche market. The data available on the production and consumption of seaweed are poor which makes it is difficult to do a risk assessment. Chemical hazards, e.g. iodine and heavy metals, are the main problem but boiling and washing can reduce their content in seaweed. There is good compositional data available from monitoring. Overall there is a perceived low risk from seaweed, but more data and monitoring are needed.
Fluoride was discussed as a potential hazard and it was agreed that it should be reviewed again. The text for Recommendation 1 should be amended to ‘surveillance and monitoring’ and a paragraph included in the body of the report outlining the current status of official control monitoring. In relation to Recommendation 3, the report should note the likelihood that the EU will set maximum limits for iodine and heavy metals in seaweed so there will be no need for national levels. Recommendation 4 should therefore be removed. The text for Recommendation 6 should be more specific, i.e. micro- and nano-plastics can fall under the emerging risks work of the FSAI. A recommendation for FSAI to explore ways to get consumption data on seaweed to facilitate risk assessment should be included. AF offered to review dietary surveys to check if there is any consumption data available there. This recommendation should be listed first. A recommendation will also be included for FSAI to explore the need for issuing consumer advice especially for vulnerable groups (those with hyperthyroidism and children (ULs for heavy metals are much lower for children)). The Committee asked that the recommendations be listed in priority. The overall conclusions and recommendations should also be included in the Executive Summary section. The Scientific Committee confirmed that the report could be signed off by email once the agreed amendments have been made.

Action: Members to send any additional comments on the report to JG.
Action: POM/BMcK to amend the report as discussed and circulate for electronic sign off.

 

5. SCIENTIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FOOD-BASED DIETARY GUIDELINES FOR OLDER ADULTS: VITAMIN D

Noted: The Chair noted that the DoH requested the Scientific Committee to fast track the Vitamin D section of the dietary guidelines for older adults, in the context of the current COVID-19 crisis. A draft report was prepared by the PHN Subcommittee and some consultation took place with KC. The recommendations section was reviewed by the Committee and feedback was provided. The different categories of older adults provided by the DoH need to be explained early in the report. The rationale must be clear in the report for Recommendations 2 and 3 on supplementation. The target level for Vitamin D in both groups of older adults should be defined. Vitamin D is important for bone health. In addition, some scientific papers have suggested a role in immunity. Two recently published UK reports say that the evidence is not there to support Vitamin D supplementation to reduce the risk of COVID-19. Recommendations 2 and 3 should be simplified, where possible. The safety aspect of high-dose supplements in Recommendation 6 also needs to be explained and aligned to the report on the Safety of Vitamins and Minerals in Food Supplements. The referencing system will be discussed with the Communications Team. The report will be amended and discussed at the next meeting.
Action: KC to work on the rationale for supplementation.
Action: AF to work on the safety of supplements.
Action: MF/OL to include the categories of older adults.
Action: Members to send any additional comments to JG.

 

6. PUBLICATION ON FLUORIDE AND DEVELOPMENTAL NEUROTOXICITY

Noted: CT gave an overview of a recent peer-reviewed publication entitled ‘Toxicity of fluoride: critical evaluation of evidence for human developmental neurotoxicity in epidemiological studies, animal experiments and in vitro analyses’ (Archives of Toxicology (2020) 94:1375–1415). The conclusion was that overall, despite the remaining uncertainties, and based on the totality of evidence, the present review does not support the presumption that fluoride should be considered as a human developmental neurotoxicant at current exposure levels in European countries. The article also recommended more studies to be carried out. AF thanked CT for the update which is relevant for the Scientific Committee’s watching brief on this issue.

 

7. UPDATE FROM BIOLOGICAL SAFETY SUBCOMMITTEE

Noted: A written update was provided. Work on the Risk Ranking of Microbial Hazards project is ongoing in the background despite delays and complications caused by COVID-19. It is difficult to progress the project without input from our colleagues in Public Health whose resources are currently consumed in dealing with COVID-19. However, work is ongoing in order to support the work of the group whenever conditions are suitable for its next meeting. The following work has/is being undertaken:
• The questionnaires, training material and a self-assessment form for the expert elicitation and weighting process have been drafted.
• The WG are exploring the possibility of approaching an individual who has experience in risk modelling and statistics to assist with using the EFSA BCoDE toolkit and the source attribution work.
• Work is ongoing to establish what data is readily/publicly available for inputting into the BCoDE to calculate the DALY (Disability Adjusted Life Years) for the microorganisms that have been shortlisted. A list of data gaps or concerns where data quality may be an issue is also being compiled.
• A document is being prepared for the WG which outlines the assumptions the BCoDE toolkit makes for each sequalae of the short-listed microorganisms.
• It is not envisaged that the WG will meet again before September.
Work on this project will extend into 2021.

 

8. UPDATE FROM PUBLIC HEALTH NUTRITION SUBCOMMITTEE

Noted: IS gave an update on the work on healthy eating guidelines for older adults. Nine subcommittee members are finalising different sections of the report. MF/OL are drafting sections on protein, fat and carbohydrate. The DoH has also asked for information on any potential for infection control considering the current pandemic to be included in the report. A meeting was held in May and the next meeting is scheduled on 9 July. The report will be ready in October. If possible, draft conclusions and recommendations will be sent to the Scientific Committee earlier than October.

 

9. UPDATE FROM AD HOC SUBCOMMITTEE ON MAP AND CROHN’S DISEASE 

Noted: It was noted that the Chair of the subcommittee has been directly involved in COVID-19-related scientific support, therefore work on this project has been delayed. Progress has been made by the subgroup led by MF dealing with Q2: a table and draft text have been produced on pasteurisation and work on methodologies has been done. The Chair aims to work on drafting the report in the next two months.

 

10. CORRESPONDENCE

Noted: There was no correspondence received.

 

11. AOB

Noted: There were no other matters discussed.

 

12. DATE OF NEXT MEETING

Noted: The next meeting will be scheduled at the end of August/beginning of September. The Chair thanked everyone for their participation.

 

 

Last reviewed: 27/8/2020

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