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The monitoring of foodborne infections is still of major importance for Europe

12/2002, 07.05.2002

Meeting of representatives of the National Contact Points of the WHO Surveillance Programme for Control of Foodborne Infections and Intoxications in Europe at BgVV

"The EU and WHO must coordinate their activities in the important area of the surveillance of foodborne diseases", demanded the 60 representatives from 46 European countries at the meeting of the National Contact Points of the WHO Surveillance Programme for Control of Foodborne Infections and Intoxications in Europe which was staged in Berlin from 23 to 25 April 2002.

This important meeting of representatives of the competent national authorities in Europe followed on from the Global Forum which was recently staged by FAO and WHO in Marrakech in January and the pan-European Conference on Food Safety which was held in Budapest. The goal of both conferences was to develop new strategies.

49 of the 50 countries in the WHO Region Europe and Cyprus currently participate in the WHO Surveillance Programme for Control of Foodborne Infections and Intoxications in Europe. It aims to develop and implement practical strategies for the avoidance and control of foodborne diseases in man. This includes the collection, evaluation and publication of data and the development of suitable control measures as well as research and training measures in the member states. The programme is coordinated by the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine (BgVV), Berlin in its capacity as the FAO/WHO Collaborating Centre for Research and Training in the field of Food Hygiene and Zoonoses. It is one of the main activities of the WHO Regional Office in Europe.

In the last 20 years the BgVV FAO/WHO Collaborating Centre has given major support, through its activities, to many European countries in their efforts to introduce and strengthen their national programmes.

All the same, the ongoing high number of food infections, the severity of new potential diseases like transmissible spongiform encephalitis (TSE) and the occurrence of new food risks have all led to unease amongst consumers the world over. As a consequence of the globalisation of the food trade, what up to now had been locally or regionally contained risks can spread at lightening speed to a number of countries. Consequently, national surveillance programmes for the prevention and control of foodborne diseases have taken on a new status. Today, well-run and coordinated programmes with the associated early warning systems are an essential instrument in the preventive health protection of consumers.

Bearing in mind the technical and financial capacities and potential difficulties of the countries involved in the programme, the participants at the meeting recommend new strategies which reflect both the needs and the expectations of all the countries. It is absolutely essential that account is taken of major new changes in food, laboratory and information technologies. Special attention is to be given to direct data transfer, evaluation and reporting as well as to quality assurance in data collection and registration. The representatives of the National Contact Points are calling on the BgVV FAO/WHO Collaborating Centre to set up, amongst other things, a network for the exchange of information including early warning systems and to build up the urgently needed structures which make possible ongoing and timely data transfer and evaluation as well as reporting.

Furthermore, the participants are calling on WHO and the BgVV FAO/WHO Collaborating Centre to lend their support to ensuring that in the future the activities of WHO and the EU are better coordinated.

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