Towards the Enhancement of Foodborne Disease Surveillance

Date: 2002

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Introduction

As a result of the continuing concern about food safety and its implications on an all-island basis, the North/South Ministerial Council established the Food Safety Promotion Board (FSPB) on December 2nd 1999. At its Board meeting in February 2000, the FSPB considered the issue of microbiological surveillance and, in noting the complexity of the issues, recommended that the key players in foodborne disease surveillance in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland consider ways for the improvement of microbiological surveillance on an all-island basis.

To assist in the development of a surveillance strategy for the FSPB, a Functional Meeting Group on Disease Surveillance was convened. The group compiled this consultation paper. A series of recommendations are made in the consultation paper and the key recommendations are summarised below.

Scope of the Paper

Food safety covers a broad range of issues, including microbiological, chemical residues and heavy metals, contaminants and infestation. The general definition of foodborne illness encompasses these issues by defining it as an illness caused by food or drink contaminated by chemicals or by pathogenic micro-organisms or their toxins.

However, this paper addresses only microbiological issues of food safety concern as indicated by the FSPB implementing legislation. Given the time constraints, aquaculture and phytosanitary issues are not addressed.

The development of an effective food safety system will warrant other issues also to be addressed, in particular chemical hazards associated with foods. As this is outside the remit of the Group, it is recommended that a forum for the co-ordination of chemical hazard surveillance should be considered within the context of an all-island food safety system. Water, as a vehicle for the transmission of foodborne illness, is not addressed in this consultation paper but water monitoring should be given consideration in any food safety surveillance system.